Obama Announces Reforms to NSA Spy Program

Obama is teaming up with Congress to create more transparency in NSA program.

President Barack Obama speaks to U.S. troops and their families at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013.
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President Barack Obama sought to squash the building narrative that the country's National Security Administration is spying on Americans.

During a Friday press conference, Obama announced he would work with Congress to enact reforms that will establish more oversight on the country's data collection programs.

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"Given the history of abuse by governments, it's right to ask questions about surveillance, particularly as technology is reshaping every aspect of our lives," Obama said. "It's not enough for me, as president, to have confidence in these programs. The American people need to have confidence in them as well."

The Obama administration had grappled with how to proceed after NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the classified programs. The administration, however, promised that the programs had substantial oversight and had been hesitant to announce additional reforms.

Obama announced Friday he would consult with Congress to reform the Patriot's Act and limit the volume of phone records being collected.

The president reiterated that the program was key to thwarting terrorist plots and did not allow the government to listen to any phone calls without a warrant, but he acknowledged Americans had a right to be wary of abuse.

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The president also announced he supported more oversights within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret court that approves government records requests. In the past the FISA Court has earned a reputation of being a rubber stamp for the executive branch, approving more than 30,000 requests and stopping just 11 of them in a 30-year period.

"We can take steps to make sure civil liberties concerns have an independent voice, in appropriate cases, by ensuring that the government's position is challenged by an adversary," Obama said.

The plan is similar to a bill Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., announced last week.

Obama also called on the Department of Justice to declassify the rationale behind the data collection programs and announced he will create an independent review board to conduct a comprehensive examination of the data collection programs.

The president's announcement was also an attempt to quell concerns of those overseas, who were growing increasingly threatened by U.S. data collection.

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"To others around the world, I want to make clear once again that America is not interested in spying on ordinary people," Obama said.

The president addressed his deteriorating relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who granted Snowden temporary asylum in July.

"I think the latest episode is just one more in a number of emerging differences that we've seen over the last several months," Obama said. "It is probably appropriate for us to take a pause, reassess where it is that Russia's going, what our core interests are, and calibrate the relationship."

The president also spoke about a host of other issues including immigration reform, the one-year anniversary of the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazie and was defiant when asked if he would shutdown the government in order to keep the Affordable Care Act intact.

A group of GOP Senators is attempting to hold the continuing resolution, a stopgap measure to keep the government funded, hostage unless the Democrats defund the president's health care law.

Obama, clearly agitated, drew a line in the sand that he had enough with obstructionism in Congress.

"The idea that you would shut down the government unless you prevent 30 million people from getting health care is a bad idea," Obama said.

 

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