President Obama Backs Limits on NSA Phone Collections - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

President Obama Backs Limits on NSA Phone Collections

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Courtesy: Getty Images Courtesy: Getty Images

President Barack Obama is ordering changes to the government's massive collection of phone records that he says will end the program "as it currently exists." 
 
Obama says in a speech prepared for delivery at the Justice Department Wednesday that intelligence officials have not intentionally abused the program to invade privacy. 
 
But he also says he believes critics of the program have been right to argue that without proper safeguards, the collection could be used to obtain more information about American's private lives and open the door to more intrusive programs. 
 
Obama announced the changes after a months-long review spurred by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden's leaks about secret surveillance programs.   

Obama says Snowden's "sensational" revelations of classified spying programs could impact U.S. operations for years to come. 
 
Some are calling for clemency for Snowden, who faces espionage charges and is residing in Russia. But Obama says U.S. defense depends, quote, "on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation's secrets."
 
He says if those individuals take it in their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, the United States will never be able to protect Americans or conduct foreign policy. He says Snowden's decision to go to the media "has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries." 

Obama says some of the foreign governments most loudly criticizing the National Security Agency's spying programs are relying on the data themselves. 
 
Obama says a number of countries publicly criticizing U.S. data collection privately acknowledge that U.S. intelligence capabilities are critical to meeting its responsibilities as the world's only superpower. And he says they use the information the NSA collects to protect their own people. 
 
Obama also said some foreign countries "feign surprise" over disclosure of the programs have spied aggressively on the United States. He says that is why phones aren't allowed in the secure White House Situation Room. 
 
Obama said, quote, "We cannot unilaterally disarm our intelligence agencies."   (AP)

Nevada Senator Harry Reid issued the following statement on President Obama's proposals to improve the intelligence community's practices in the collection of electronic information:

"Today President Obama proposed bold and real steps to reform the methods the intelligence community uses to keep us safe.  These proposed reforms will go a long way towards putting the imperatives of national security and personal liberty into an appropriate and sustainable balance.

"I have always believed that we must maintain rigorous oversight and transparency over national security programs that affect American citizens. At the same time, we must be sure to provide our intelligence professionals with the tools they need to protect our country and defeat those who would do us harm. In the Senate, leaders from both parties have been working diligently on these issues, and I look forward to working with them and President Obama to implement the proposals outlined today.

"I also want to express my appreciation for the hard-working men and women of the intelligence community. They dedicate their lives to protecting our safety, and we all owe them a debt of gratitude."

U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV), who has partnered with lawmakers on a bipartisan basis to end the metadata collection program and increase transparency at the NSA, welcomed the President's remarks. 

"I welcome the news today that President Obama will move to end the telephone bulk collection data as it exists. This program is a form of government overreach that I believe crossed the line from protecting Americans to violating our Fourth Amendment rights. Several lawmakers shared these same concerns, which is why we joined together to introduce the USA Freedom Act last fall to end this program once and for all. Just as President Obama said today, the President and Congress must work closely together in order to strike the correct balance that allows our intelligence community to keep our nation safe without undertaking massive privacy intrusions.

"Today's speech is also the start of a new debate. Significant policy questions remain, including who should house this data. I have concerns that requiring private companies to shoulder the burden for the NSA could simply shift privacy intrusions from the federal government to private companies. Further discussions are needed in order to achieve a workable solution that protects Americans' Fourth Amendment rights," said Senator Dean Heller.

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