President Obama today announced plans to overhaul the nation’s surveillance system in the wake of an outcry over revelations about how the National Security Agency collects phone data on U.S. citizens.
"Declaring that advances in technology had made it harder ‘to both defend our nation and uphold our civil liberties,’ [Obama] announced carefully calculated changes to surveillance policies on Friday, saying he would restrict the ability of intelligence agencies to gain access to telephone data, and would ultimately move that data out of the hands of the government," The New York Times reports.
"But Mr. Obama left in place significant elements of the broad surveillance net assembled by the National Security Agency, and left the implementation of many of his changes up to Congress and the intelligence agencies themselves."
In his speech today Obama said he would implement a requirement for court approval for the viewing of phone data, and would forbid eavesdropping on the leaders of U.S. allies — a move that followed a diplomatic hassle with Germany and other nations, the report notes.
Said Obama: “America’s capabilities are unique. And the power of new technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do. That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do.”
"But Mr. Obama also delivered a stout defense of the nation’s intelligence establishment, saying that there was no evidence it had abused its power, and that many of its methods were necessary to protect Americans from a host of threats in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks," the report adds.
The article notes: "The president did not accept one of the most significant recommendations of his own advisory panel on surveillance practices: requiring prior court approval for so-called national security letters, which the government uses to demand information on individuals from companies. And in leaving much of the implementation up to Congress, he most likely opened the door to extremely contentious battles."
The Times piece adds: "Mr. Obama made only passing reference to Edward J. Snowden, the former NSA contractor whose disclosures of classified information set off a national and international clamor over American surveillance practices. Mr. Snowden’s actions, he said, jeopardized the nation’s defense and framed a debate that has ‘often shed more heat than light.’”