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President Obama Announces NSA Reforms in Major Speech on Government Surveillance: VIDEO


President Obama gave a speech announcing a number of NSA reforms including an end to tapping the phones of allied governments and the holding of metadata from millions of Americans, the NYT reports:

In a much-anticipated speech that ranged from broad principles to technical details, Mr. Obama said he would end the vast collection of phone data as it exists today. He will also restrict the ability of the National Security Agency to throw a net well beyond the data of an individual target and collect unlimited numbers.

And the president said he would sharply restrict eavesdropping on the leaders of dozens of foreign allies, the disclosure of which ignited a diplomatic firestorm with friendly countries like Germany.

But Mr. Obama did not accept other recommendations that have been made to him on reining in surveillance, like requiring court approval for so-called national security letters, in which the government demands information on individuals from companies. That was a victory for the F.B.I. and other law-enforcement agencies, who argue that these letters are vital to investigations.

Obama also briefly mentioned leaks of NSA intelligence by Edward Snowden:

“I’m not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or his motivations. I will say that our nation’s defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets. If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy....Moreover, the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we may not fully understand for years to come.”

Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who helped break the Snowden story, called the speech a PR stunt:

“It’s really just basically a PR gesture, a way to calm the public and to make them think there’s reform when in reality there really won’t be. And I think that if the public, at this point, has heard enough about what the NSA does and how invasive it is, that they’re going to need more than just a pretty speech from President Obama to feel as though their concerns have been addressed.”

Watch the full speech, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. As expected, no major changes at all, and he lied about several key points.

    Posted by: Eric | Jan 17, 2014 1:36:41 PM

  2. Expected by who?

    Posted by: NotSafeForWork | Jan 17, 2014 1:43:45 PM

  3. Anyone with any government/international/interesting job has been spied on. I had to stop caring about it 13 years ago. The NSA doesn't have enough staff to cover it, the FBI and CIA can't cover it effectively, and State and Customs are just annoying.

    Posted by: Not Going to Be Stupid But They Know My IP Address | Jan 17, 2014 1:43:57 PM

  4. As a huge Obama fan, a two-time Obama voter, and a person who donated $6,000 to his re-election campaign/DNC fund, I don't trust anything anyone in the administration says about this spying program. But I will point out that it was begun under George W Bush. Obama has simply expanded it...which is NOT okay, but let's not pretend it all began with him and his administration.

    Posted by: peterparker | Jan 17, 2014 1:49:43 PM

  5. God, who cares? I honestly don't have anything worthwhile to overhear.

    Posted by: Mikey | Jan 17, 2014 2:25:28 PM

  6. @Mikey

    There are many reasons why you should care. Here are a few:

    For example, one in six authors polled recently said they had avoided writing or speaking about a certain topic, and almost one in four reported that they had self-censored via e-mail or on the phone.

    This kind of surveillance is also devastating the tech sector, which was one of the few bright sectors in the US economy.

    You might think that you have nothing to hide today, but this data is going to be kept forever, which is the main reason the new NSA center has been built in Utah- for storage. And what you might not mind the gov knowing today may change tomorrow.

    Most importantly, even if you're not a US citizen, and especially if you are, the fact that the US government has unchained itself from the US Constitution is a very, very, very serious matter with worldwide implications.

    "The US fought a revolution, and James Madison wrote the Fourth Amendment, against broad government authority to search. Whether you personally do or do not have anything to hide is not even a question that should be on the table. It should be almost un-American to ask it." - Peter Van Buren, Mother Jones, 10 Myths About NSA Surveillance That Need Debunking

    Posted by: Eric | Jan 17, 2014 2:44:18 PM

  7. Here's EFFs scorecard on Obama's "reforms":

    Posted by: Eric | Jan 17, 2014 2:45:30 PM

  8. Translation: we'll be more careful next time.

    Posted by: Felix | Jan 17, 2014 3:00:27 PM

  9. Basically the President tried to redefine privacy and pushed for the assimilation of a Police State.

    Posted by: Jay | Jan 17, 2014 3:50:51 PM

  10. When he ran for President I actually entertained the belief that he might be radical; how naive of me.
    Now I see President Obama as a conservative.

    But that speech today was shockingly smug.....
    That, I did not expect.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Jan 17, 2014 4:02:59 PM

  11. This is hardly a left-wing vs right-wing thing. It's an american vs unamerican thing.

    Posted by: anon | Jan 17, 2014 4:12:45 PM

  12. BTW there are no "liberties worth fighting for" when we aren't free.

    Posted by: Jay | Jan 17, 2014 4:26:56 PM

  13. President Obama has struck the right balance between protecting our security and our right to privacy. Ideologues on the extreme right and left be damned.

    Posted by: andrew | Jan 18, 2014 1:50:30 AM

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