Obama says U.S. Must Re-Earn Trust on Surveillance Issues

President Obama during a news conference in The Hague, Netherlands. (Pool / Getty Images)
President Obama during a news conference in The Hague, Netherlands. (Pool / Getty Images)

Saying that U.S. intelligence agencies have to “win back the trust, not just of governments but more importantly of ordinary citizens,” President Obama confirmed that he will propose to Congress that the National Security Agency no longer have the authority to collect and hold years’ worth of telephone calling records.

Under Obama’s plan, however, the NSA also would gain access to cellphone information it currently lacks, significantly expanding its ability to search telephone calling records for potential terrorist threats.

Justice Department and intelligence officials “have presented me now with an option that I think is workable. And it addresses the two core concerns that people have,” Obama said at a news conference in the Netherlands.

The first concern, he said, was that the government not be in control of a vast archive of telephone call data. The second was that the NSA only be allowed to search phone records under a specific court order, rather than under its current blanket authority.

Although “some of the reporting here in Europe, as well as the United States frankly, has been pretty sensationalized, I think the fears about our privacy in this age of the Internet and big data are justified,” Obama said.

The new plan should help address public fears, he added, although he conceded that winning people’s trust is “not going to happen overnight because I think that there’s a tendency to be skeptical of government and to be skeptical, in particular, of U.S. intelligence services.”

The plan, which would need congressional approval, would significantly curb what has been the most controversial secret program revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Currently, the NSA collects most landline calling records and stores them for five years in a database that it periodically searches using telephone numbers connected to terrorists abroad.

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SOURCE: Ken Dilanian 
The Los Angeles Times

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