Barack Obama announced on Friday that he will require intelligence agencies to obtain permission from a secret court before tapping into a vast storehouse of telephone data, and will ultimately move that data out of the hands of the government.
The president also defended NSA operatives saying the agents were “our neighbors and friends.”
National Journal reported:
In a bid to calm growing privacy concerns about the government’s spying powers, President Obama outlined a series of steps Friday aimed at ushering in “concrete and substantial” reforms to the National Security Agency.
“Americans recognized that we had to adapt to a world in which a bomb could be built in a basement and our electric grid could be shut down by operators an ocean away,” the president said during a major policy speech at the Department of Justice.
“And yet,” he added, “in our rush to respond to very real and novel threats, the risks of government overreach—the possibility that we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of security—became more pronounced.”
“The reforms I’m proposing today,” Obama said toward the end of the speech, “should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe.”…
…The White House also released a policy directive Friday morning, which recognizes that “signals intelligence activities and the possibility that such activities may be improperly disclosed to the public pose multiple risks,” including harming international relationships. The directive also orders that “privacy and civil liberties shall be integral considerations in the planning of U.S. signals intelligence activities.”
While the president recognized the surveillance program has grown in recent years, he also strongly defended those who work in the intelligence community, saying they do not abuse power. “After all,” he said, “the folks at NSA and other intelligence agencies are our neighbors and our friends.”
“Those who defend these programs are not dismissive of civil liberties,” Obama said.