Obama Announces Next Steps in NSA Surveillance Flap

There is no evidence that intelligence agencies abused power, according to Obama.

by / January 17, 2014 0
President Barack Obama talks about National Security Agency surveillance, Friday, Jan. 17, at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. Seeking to calm a furor over U.S. surveillance, the president called for ending the government's control of phone data from hundreds of millions of Americans, and immediately ordered intelligence agencies to get a secretive court's permission before accessing the records. AP/Carolyn Kaster

President Obama wasn't expected to announce anything earth-shaking today in his speech on NSA surveillance and he satisfied those predictions. While the president said there was no evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies had abused power, he did acknowlege that massive collection of phone metadata could be abused.

He said court approval would now be required for telephone taps, and no eavesdropping would be conducted on allied leaders. Court approval, however, would not be sought or required to seek information from companies on individuals. Here are some other highlights from the president's speech, as reported by The New York Times.

  • Intelligence agencies will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization.
  • Attorney General Eric H. Holder will work with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court so that intelligence agencies can only access the existing database in an emergency or with a court order.
  • Holder will make recommendations as to who or what will hold the storehouse of phone metadata.
  • Obama did not address the issue of creating back doors in software or otherwise tampering with U.S. manufactured hardware, a practice which has hurt U.S. sales of computer equipment.

President Obama defended surveillance, saying it had prevented terrorist attacks. “What’s really at stake," he said,  "is how we remain true to who we are in a world that is remaking itself at dizzying speed.”