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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs