Obama says he will propose NSA reforms

WASHINGTON Thu Dec 5, 2013 7:04pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama makes remarks on the passing of former South African President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nelson Mandela at the age of 95, at the White House in Washington, December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

U.S. President Barack Obama makes remarks on the passing of former South African President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nelson Mandela at the age of 95, at the White House in Washington, December 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Theiler

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Thursday he intends to propose National Security Agency reforms to reassure Americans that their privacy is not being violated by the agency.

"Part of what we're trying to do over the next month or so is, having done an independent review and brought a whole bunch of folks, civil libertarians and lawyers and others to examine what's being done, I'll be proposing some self-restraint on the NSA and to initiate some reforms that can give people more confidence," Obama said in an interview on the MSNBC television program "Hardball with Chris Matthews."

A steady drip of revelations of NSA snooping has raised widespread concern about the reach of the agency's operations and its ability to pry into the affairs of private individuals as well as the communications of foreign leaders.

In the most recent such news, the Washington Post reported this week that the agency gathers nearly 5 billion records a day on the location of mobile telephones worldwide, including those of some Americans. The information comes from documents made public by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Obama said he would not comment on details of NSA programs, but that while revelations of the agency's activities have raised legitimate concerns, some aspects have been exaggerated.

"Some of it has also been highly sensationalized and has been painted in a way that's not accurate," he said.

Some surveillance is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, but the agency's activities are constrained in the United States, Obama said.

"They are not interested in reading your emails," he said. "They're not interested in - reading your text messages."

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (4)
anonymot wrote:
If our President had any coullions he’d say in plain English that Edward Snowden blew the whistle that brought everyone to attention. He would tell our fellow citizens that tracking terrorists and allies of terrorists does not require recording everything everyone says and writes electronically, Americans or foreigners. He would say not that the NSA will exercise self constraint, but that it will be constrained, because it is easy for the instruments of spying to get out of hand, warped or ill-used as J Edgar did, so the public must be protected from bureaucratic failure.

No one, but no one, neither Snowden nor Assange nor Manning, etc. EVER proposed that zero surveillance is necessary. But between nothing and too much there is a world of effective gray.

Obama needs to find some courage and if wisdom is beyond reach, at least some common sense. He’s been blinded by his position.

Dec 05, 2013 8:24pm EST  --  Report as abuse
simple-minded wrote:
The President stops far short of where he needs to go. Laws have been broken, Americans’ rights have been violated, rules appear to have been intentionally disregarded.

Some should lose their jobs. Some should be prosecuted. Some should be held responsible in civil suits.

Every American should feel violated by our government. No one would bat an eye if this happened in Iran, China, or a number of other totalitarian governments. But this is America. These people work for us. This type of surveillance, whether during a Republican or Democratic term, is a terrible violation of our privacy and should be unacceptable to most Americans.

I fear we have become like sheep, just accepting whatever we are told, especially by this administration. Our freedoms are slowly being taken away all in the name of protecting us (same story Hitler used only the threat was Communists and the pace was much more rapid).

Eric Snowden’s life has been changed forever and all because he brought these invasive secret practices to light. He fought against what he thought was wrong. I think the President should publicly thank Snowden for bringing this to light. Was it Snowden who was the traitor as members of our government tried to paint him, or are the real traitors against our nation those who would secretly take away our freedoms and our privacy and undermine the very premise of our constitution?

President Obama is downplaying this abuse for political expediency. However, I agree with the anonymous writer below that the NSA needs strong, independent oversight and scrutiny to protect what is most important in America, our personal freedoms. Also, an example should be made of those responsible for these violations to deter future occurrences.

Nonetheless, I cannot help but wonder if my comment today will trigger some additional surveillance or tax audit for me and my family. I am sure that is not the America Thomas Jefferson envisioned.

Dec 05, 2013 10:24pm EST  --  Report as abuse
ARJTurgot2 wrote:
I believe him, for example, monitoring of communications between the White House and Immigration Judges in Boston is absolutely prohibited.

Dec 05, 2013 10:32pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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