Obama to announce surveillance changes next week

McClatchy Washington BureauJanuary 10, 2014 


A bearded White House press secretary Jay Carney speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C.


President Barack Obama will announce changes to the federal government's surveillance programs in a speech Jan. 17, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

Obama appears to be on verge of making several changes to the nation’s surveillance programs, including halting the government’s storage of mass telephone records of millions of Americans, appointing a public advocate to appear before the nation’s secret surveillance court and stopping spying on some foreign leaders, according to those familiar with the White House deliberations.

"The president's been clear throughout this review process that we will not harm our national security or our ability to face global threats," Carney said. "And our intelligence gathering activities are directly related to our ability to face those global threats and protect our national security."

The White House has been seeking final suggestions from lawmakers and experts, including some critics of government spying, as Obama puts the finishing touches on a series of changes he will make following an international uproar over the nation’s surveillance programs.

White House aides will meet with technology companies Friday. But the White House did not release the names of the companies.

"The goal, the president, I think has set here is to take measures that create more transparency, introduce reforms that improve the system in a way that gives the American people more confidence," Carney said.

Some lawmakers and advocates criticized Obama for planning to release his proposals before an independent group – the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board – finishes its own review and recommendations on government surveillance in late January or early February.

"I can't speak to the timing of their -- the release of the report, but the work they've done is very much a piece of the input that the president and his team have been -- has -- have -- have taken in putting together the review," Carney said.

Since June, former contractor Edward Snowden has leaked documents showing the National Security Agency has been collecting telephone and email records of tens of millions of Americans and foreigners, eavesdropping on allies such as Germany and Brazil, and spying on a host of global institutions including the World Bank.

An advisory panel created by Obama recommended nearly 50 changes to the surveillance programs, which have guided intelligence gathering by the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Obama could make some changes through executive actions. Others would require approval from a divided Congress, where support for NSA changes does not fall strictly along party lines.

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