By Roberta Rampton and Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON Jan 9 President Barack Obama met
with 16 lawmakers on Thursday to discuss reforming how U.S.
intelligence agencies collect telephone and internet data after
damaging revelations by former National Security Agency
contractor Edward Snowden.
"This meeting was an opportunity for the president to hear
from the members about the work that they have been doing on
these issues since they last met, and solicit their input as we
near the end of our internal review," White House spokesman Jay
Carney told reporters at a briefing.
Obama is slated to announce decisions on reforms in a speech
that could come as early as next week. He is expected to include
some restrictions on spying on foreign leaders, changes in
storing bulk telephone data and the appointment of a civil
liberties defender in secret intelligence courts.
As part of the review, White House officials are reviewing
lists of NSA spying targets to weigh whether the risk of
embarrassment if snooping on them is exposed is worth any gains
to national security from the surveillance.
Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the
Senate Intelligence Committee, said Obama was "in a listening
mode" during the meeting.
"He also made clear that some changes should be made to
create trust in the program by making them more transparent to
the American people," Chambliss said.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary
Committee, said he urged Obama at Thursday's meeting to do more
to explain to Americans why collecting their phone data protects
"The president has unique information about the merits of
these programs and the extent of their usefulness. This
information is critical to informing Congress on how far to go
in reforming the programs," Goodlatte said in a statement.
Also on Thursday, the House Intelligence Committee said it
had received a classified report from the U.S. Defense
Department alleging that Snowden's disclosures could put U.S.
military personnel "in harm's way and jeopardize the success of
current DoD operations."
Shawn Turner, chief spokesman for the office of Director of
National Intelligence, did not address the report directly, but
told Reuters in an e-mail that Snowden's leaks meant "terrorists
and their support networks now have a better understanding of
our collection methods and, make no mistake about it, they are
Obama met with intelligence officials on Wednesday, as well
as the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a bipartisan
independent panel that also has been reviewing the issue.
On Friday, members of the White House staff are slated to
meet with representatives of technology companies, following up
on Obama's meeting on the issue last month with executives from
Apple Inc, Google Inc, AT&T Inc,
Microsoft Corp and others.
"This is another opportunity to share views as the
administration nears completion of our internal review of
signals intelligence," said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the
White House National Security Council.