News / USA

    Obama Proposes Limits on NSA Data Collection

    Obama Announces Changes to NSA Surveillance, Reassures Foreign Leadersi
    X
    January 18, 2014 1:36 AM
    President Barack Obama has announced major changes in U.S. electronic surveillance, calling them necessary to give Americans and people around the world more confidence in how programs are conducted. As senior White House correspondent Dan Robinson reports, the president also reassured foreign leaders about U.S. surveillance methods.
    Obama Announces Changes to NSA Surveillance, Reassures Foreign Leaders
    President Barack Obama unveiled reforms Friday in the vast surveillance being conducted by the country's clandestine National Security Agency.

    Aiming to calm uproar over NSA telecommunications surveillance, Obama outlined plans to end government control of an enormous cache of bulk phone records about calls made by Americans and foreigners, and also announced steps to reassure foreign leaders about U.S. surveillance tactics.

    In the highly anticipated Justice Department speech, which follows months of review by a special panel in the wake of damaging disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the president also said government access and search of any data held by telecommunications companies will require advance approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA).

    The special panel issued 46 recommendations to the administration, covering everything from NSA's collection of so-called "metadata" from communications links worldwide, to direct surveillance of foreign leaders — an issue that caused major rifts between the U.S. and key allies.

    While Obama said there has been no intentional abuse of surveillance programs and no spying on ordinary Americans through bulk phone data collection, he also said the NSA's ability to gather intelligence must be preserved. He acknowledged, though, that proper safeguards must be in place to prevent unwarranted intrusions.

    Obama said he would not dwell on the actions of Snowden, whom he mentioned by name, or his motivation for making public a huge trove of classified information. The challenge ahead, he said, includes regaining the trust of people around the world, and of American citizens.

    "The task before us now is greater than simply repairing the damage done to our operations, or preventing more disclosures from taking place in the future," he said. "Instead, we have to make some important decisions about how to protect ourselves and sustain our leadership in the world, while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections that our ideals — and our Constitution — require."

    Proposed changes

    In order to modify existing policies, the president has ordered the attorney general and the NSA to submit within 60 days a report on alternative methods of holding phone data before Congress must reauthorize Section 215 of U.S. law under which collection occurs.

    The presidential directive orders safeguards to be developed regarding how long the U.S. can hold information about non-citizens overseas, and how it can be used — as the president put it — to advance U.S. counterintelligence, counterterrorism and cybersecurity.

    Effective immediately, the National Security Agency will be required to get FISA permission before accessing phone records collected from hundreds of millions of Americans, except in emergency situations.

    Senior administration officials say the attorney general will work with the surveillance court to ensure that no request to access specific phone records can be made without advance judicial review.

    He also proposed changes in the use of National Security Letters, which allow the government to seek information from persons or companies pertaining to national security. He also endorsed creation of a panel of outside advocates to represent privacy and civil liberty concerns before FISA, a move that would require congressional action.

    Obama also said he would appoint new State Department and administration officials to oversee implementation of the new policies and maintain dialogue and outreach to both domestic and international communities impacted by the changes.

    Obama said his reforms will point the U.S. in a new direction and will require more work, but "will make us stronger."

    Foreign impact

    Senior administration officials also said intelligence activities aimed at heads of state and government have been reviewed, and bilateral conversations have already been initiated to build better cooperation and coordination on all sides.

    Obama said U.S. leadership can only be sustained with the trust and confidence of world leaders. He pledged to the world that unless there is a compelling national security purpose, the U.S. will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government, or of close friends and allies.

    "People around the world — regardless of their nationality — should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security, and that we take their privacy concerns into account," he said. "This applies to foreign leaders as well."

    Obama said the U.S. will not apologize for methods it has used and will continue gathering intelligence. The world expects the United States to defend individuals' freedom, he said, adding that U.S. intelligence collection is aimed at protecting American and allied forces combating weapons proliferation and transnational crime.

    The president also announced initiation of a White House review of policies on so-called "big data," taking into account the pace of technological change that has revolutionized communications worldwide.

    The same technological advances that allow U.S. intelligence agencies to pinpoint an al-Qaida cell in Yemen, he said, also put routine communications around the world within the reach of government investigators. He admitted how disquieting that prospect can be for everyone as the digital revolution transforms the world.

    While intelligence agencies cannot function without keeping details of their work secret, he said continuing attacks and cyber-attacks make it necessary for the intelligence community to be able to "connect the dots" as a central defender of the nation.

    Obama also said the United States' intelligence gathering throughout its two-century existence "has helped secure our country and freedom." The 2001 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil posed new challenges for the country, he said, which required intelligence agencies to adapt beyond the type of spying they had conducted for decades.

    US opinion polls

    Polls in recent months have shown a majority of Americans believe existing laws are inadequate when it comes to oversight of NSA methods.

    Globally, Obama's remarks are being carefully assessed because of the controversy over NSA eavesdropping on phone calls of key leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    Though the reforms announced Friday are based on findings of the review panel and Obama's intense consultations, he has yet to receive another report from a special civil liberties board.

    Experts say the changes are certain to draw criticism from some in the intelligence community, who urged the president to maintain surveillance programs in their current form.

    Washington reporter Ken Bredemeier and Pete Cobus contributed to this report.

    You May Like

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
    January 20, 2014 9:38 AM
    It is reported in Japanese media that NSA becomes prohibited from not only collecting but restoring intelligence of citizens and furthermore it becomes need approval of court for reaching them restored by tell communication companies. It looks for me this decision made by Obama closely remove the complete power of NSA namely as an angency of national security. If what reported in Japan is true, I can not believe this proposal could pass the congress because American people look for me the people who could die in front of the stars and stripes no matter whether it helps for their happiness. Thank you.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora