President Obama announces significant changes to NSA program

Jan 17 2014, 8:31pm CST | by , in News | Technology News

President Obama announces significant changes to NSA program
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President Obama: The reforms I'm proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected.

U.S. President Barack Obama has finally issued an official response to the endless accusations tied to the NSA's scandalous surveillance practices.

In his speech from the Department of Justice earlier today, Obama talked about overhauling the process of the agency's spying practices. In particular, the president said that he will require intelligence agencies to get a court approval first before accessing telephone metadata - a long list of phone calls made by Americans.

Obama added that he will eventually move the data out from the agency. Mr. Obama has instructed Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to work things out with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) so that spy agencies can still access the database during emergency situations or with approval from the court. Holder has 60 days to work on recommendations as to where the metadata will be stores.

“Critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives, and open the door to more intrusive bulk collection programs,” he added.

The president also revealed a "compromise" to the NSA's surveillance protocol on its citizens, ordering that only phone calls that are two steps from a number of a suspected terrorist will be monitored.

Known as the two-hop rule, only a suspect's phone contacts (one hop), and the contacts of those contacts (two hops) will be monitored. The agency previously used a three-hop method.

Obama also assured that the government will no longer spy on leaders of allied countries.

"The leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to learn what they think about an issue, I will pick up the phone and call them, rather than turning to surveillance," Obama said.

With regards to National Security Letters or NSLs, Obama asked the attorney general to change how the letters will be handled. NSLs are subpoenas used to obtain records from businesses.  Under the law, companies who received NSLs cannot disclose them to the public. Obama did not approve a recommendation to require agencies to get judicial approval prior to the issuance of letters.

Obama did not address other important issues that were endorsed by his panel. These included manipulating software on consumer electronic products and promoting the use of weak coding systems for cyber-surveillance. 

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