The National Security Agency’s spying programs have had America up in arms for quite some time, and President Obama has vowed to change those programs. In a public address to the nation today, he called for sweeping changes to the way the NSA monitors data from telephone calls made in the U.S. and internationally.
Obama calls upon agencies to help decide
In his speech, the president urged the Department of Justice, Congress and the intelligence community to decide what changes the NSA should make. According to TechCrunch, President Obama promised to make big reforms to the bulk collection of phone and Internet data. Until the plans for these changes are finalized, however, the NSA will have to receive judicial approval unless there’s an emergency.
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In addition, the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General will annually review opinions regarding surveillance courts with the goal of protecting privacy. Also the NSA will only be able to look at data from suspects who are two steps away from their target suspect. Previously, the agency was allowed to go three steps. This basically means that the NSA can now only look at a friend of a friend of the target suspect, rather than a friend of a friend of a friend. Most people are three steps away from millions or even hundreds of millions of other people. Even by cutting down on the number of steps away, the NSA can still theoretically investigate between 200,000 and 400,000 people in connection with one suspect.
The president also claimed that the U.S. will be increasing privacy protections for overseas friends and ask lawmakers to create a review group to push for more civil liberties at secret court hearings and intelligence agencies.
Obama defends the NSA
In addition to calling for broad reforms of the NSA’s spying programs, President Obama also spoke about how the agency’s programs have helped and even saved lives. However, he said that the programs have just gone too far. He also said that the NSA doesn’t violate the civil liberties of citizens. And on the topic of Snowden, the president said he put U.S. citizens in jeopardy by making it more difficult for the intelligence community to offer protection.
He also said that the White House would have more control over what the NSA does.
Outcry over NSA spying programs
The public outcry over the NSA’s spying programs started after former contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the agency, leaking numerous documents highlighting to what extent the NSA monitors ordinary American citizens. According to BGR, early chatter taking place on social networks suggests that the president’s reforms are not enough and that people are still angry about just how far the NSA’s reach has gotten.