Congressional leaders were divided Friday on whether President Barack Obama went far enough in his announced reforms to the National Security Agency's data collection programs.
After months of pressure on the White House to become more transparent about the country's spying methods, Obama announced his list of reforms Friday, but remained clear the collection of data for national security purposes would not cease.
"U.S. intelligence agencies will only use such data to meet specific security requirements: counter-intelligence," Obama said in his remarks. "Now let me be clear: our intelligence agencies will continue to gather information about the intentions of governments – as opposed to ordinary citizens – around the world, in the same way that the intelligence services of every other nation does."
Many on Capitol Hill, who have been the harshest critics of the NSA, were not satisfied with the president's narrow reforms even as Obama asked them create a "panel of privacy" composed of security and civil liberty watchdogs.
"While I am encouraged the president is addressing the NSA spying program because of pressure from Congress and the American people, I am disappointed in the details," said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. "President Obama's announced solution to the NSA spying controversy is the same unconstitutional program with a new configuration."
Paul said he would continue to push for additional legislation on Capitol Hill and would also continue to pursue his legal case against the federal agency.
"The American people should not expect the fox to guard the hen house," Paul said about Obama's promise to appoint a special White House oversight director to keep a watchful eye over the security programs.
Unlike many partisan debates that have plagued Congress in recent years, the debate regarding the country's spying efforts has not fallen along traditional party lines. In the months since Edward Snowden revealed top secret data collection programs, it has been defense hawks vs. privacy advocates.
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee who has worked closely with Paul on ways to balance security with privacy, was more complimentary of the president's approach.
"After my years of #bipartisan work & ongoing efforts, Pres. Obama took big steps forward today on #NSA reform," he tweeted following the speech.
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, another member of the committee also applauded Obama's promise to stop the government's long-term storing of bulk phone data, but argued additional reforms would be beneficial. "I look forward to engaging with President Obama and my colleagues on this and other reforms to make certain that effective checks and balances are in place," King said in his released statement.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a national security hawk, said the president's speech left "crucial questions unanswered." McCain said he was advocating for a Senate Select Committee to explore how Congress might play a larger role in the debate.
"It is more important than ever for Congress to exercise effective oversight and, where necessary, to enact legislation to address these issues which are vital to American national security. The establishment of a Select Committee is essential to fulfilling this critical task," McCain said.