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

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    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.
    Chinese Americans for Trump Going Against National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese Americans for Trump Going Against National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora