Obama promises review of NSA spying program, possible reforms

12/21/13
 
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from The Washington Post,
12/20/13:

President Obama signaled Friday that he may halt the National Security Agency’s collection and storage of millions of Americans’ phone records and instead require phone companies to hold the data.

Speaking at a White House news conference near the end of a very difficult year, Obama said that he would have a “pretty definitive statement” on proposed NSA reforms in January, following his family’s annual holiday break in Hawaii.

His remarks suggested that Obama’s views have changed significantly since details of the NSA’s far-reaching surveillance programs were publicly revealed in June. He said he believed his administration has struck the right balance between intelligence gathering and privacy protection but acknowledged that concerns about the potential for abuse may make it necessary to rein in the programs to restore public trust.

“The environment has changed,” Obama said. He said that it “matters more that people right now are concerned,” and added, “Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we necessarily should.”

During the 60-minute news conference, Obama also reiterated his claim of personal responsibility for the disastrous rollout of his health-care law. In addition, he expressed optimism that he could advance his agenda in 2014, beginning with immigration reform.

“I think 2014 needs to be a year of action,” Obama said.

Obama acknowledged that the United States needs to provide “more confidence” to the international community amid widespread outrage over revelations of U.S. spying on many foreign allies.

He added, “In a virtual world, some of these boundaries don’t matter anymore.”

Obama defended the NSA, saying that he has seen no evidence that the agency “acted inappropriately” with the billions of call records it has assembled in a secret database, a claim that is at odds with compliance reports and other documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Obama all but endorsed one of the White House panel’s proposals, which would require phone companies to hold the data that the NSA has been collecting.

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