Live Blog: Obama announces NSA changes - CNN

Live Blog: Obama announces NSA changes

President Barack Obama announces sweeping changes to U.S. surveillance efforts exposed by intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, whose disclosures raised questions about government overreach in fighting terror. Follow this live blog for updates and analysis.

  • (CNN) -- President Barack Obama on Friday defended the the "vital role" that intelligence-gathering plays in the nation's security, as he nonetheless announced changes aimed at increasing transparency and protecting privacy and civil liberties.

    Presidential guidance released as Obama spoke at the Justice Department said the government will not collect intelligence "for the purpose of suppressing or burdening criticism or dissent, or for disadvantaging persons based on their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion."


  • (CNN) -- President Barack Obama on Friday will announce the end of the controversial NSA telephone metadata collection program "as it currently exists," a senior administration official told CNN.

    Obama will say that he is ordering a transition of the current intelligence-gathering program to one that addresses concerns of privacy and civil liberties, the official said. Read more

  • From CNN Justice Reporter Evan Perez: In the Justice Department ceremonial Great Hall, heavy security and limited admission only to dignitaries such as government lawyers and members of Congress make it unlikely we'll have protesters such as Code Pink who have disrupted past presidential speeches.

    There is a curtain blocking off the partially nude statues in the hall, which garnered controversy during the tenure of Attorney General John Ashcroft (he had them draped with a cloth for modesty).
  • Stand by for our special live @CNN coverage of President @BarackObama speech on #NSA spying. I'm anchoring starting 11AM ET
  • What's the impact of NSA data collection?
  • Retired Maj. Gen. James 'Spider' Marks says he doubts anything is going to "substantively change" in terms of using data collection to go after terrorism.
  • The White House has just about acknowledged that it has spied on world leaders, including allied leaders, CNN Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta reports. The president is also expected to announce a "privacy advocate" to the federal surveillance court.
  • Per CNN's Wolf Blitzer, one thing to look for in the President's speech: Will Obama mention Edward Snowden by name?
  • POTUS reforms: 1) "new presidential directive for our signals intelligence activities... strengthen executive branch oversight"
  • "I have therefore directed the Attorney General to amend how we use National Security Letters so this secrecy will not be indefinite, so that it will terminate within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy. We will also enable communications providers to make public more information than ever before about the orders that they have received to provide data to the government."
  • John Schindler, prof Naval War College & former NSA employee: 

  • "This brings me to program that has generated the most controversy these past few months – the bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215. Let me repeat what I said when this story first broke – this program does not involve the content of phone calls, or the names of people making calls. Instead, it provides a record of phone numbers and the times and lengths of calls – meta-data that can be queried if and when we have a reasonable suspicion that a particular number is linked to a terrorist organization."
  • FBI gets its way, PresO won't force judiical review of national security letters; but letters won't be secret forever as is now policy
  • "Why is this necessary? The program grew out of a desire to address a gap identified after 9/11. One of the 9/11 hijackers – Khalid al-Mihdhar – made a phone call from San Diego to a known al Qaeda safe-house in Yemen. NSA saw that call, but could not see that the call was coming from an individual already in the United States."
  • "The telephone metadata program under Section 215 was designed to map the communications of terrorists, so we can see who they may be in contact with as quickly as possible. This capability could also prove valuable in a crisis. For example, if a bomb goes off in one of our cities and law enforcement is racing to determine whether a network is poised to conduct additional attacks, time is of the essence. Being able to quickly review phone connections to assess whether a network exists is critical to that effort."
  • Liberal Prog Change Campaign Cmte: Obama's changes "would not have been possible without Edward Snowden. He is a hero and a whistle-blower."
  • "In sum, the program does not involve the NSA examining the phone records of ordinary Americans. Rather, it consolidates these records into a database that the government can query if it has a specific lead – a consolidation of phone records that the companies already retain for business purposes. The Review Group turned up no indication that this database has been intentionally abused. And I believe it is important that the capability that this program is designed to meet is preserved."
  • "Having said that, I believe 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 in the future. They're also right to point out that although the telephone bulk collection program was subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and has been reauthorized repeatedly by Congress, it has never been subject to vigorous public debate."
  • "For all these reasons, I believe we need a new approach. I am therefore ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata program as it currently exists, and establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk meta-data."
  • Democratic Rep: Barbara Lee of California: 

  • "This will not be simple. The Review Group recommended that our current approach be replaced by one in which the providers or a third party retain the bulk records, with the government accessing information as needed. Both of these options pose difficult problems. Relying solely on the records of multiple providers, for example, could require companies to alter their procedures in ways that raise new privacy concerns. On the other hand, any third party maintaining a single, consolidated data-base would be carrying out what is essentially a government function but with more expense, more legal ambiguity, potentially less accountability, all of which would have a doubtful impact on public confidence that their privacy is being protected."
  • "During the review process, some suggested that we may also be able to preserve the capabilities we need through a combination of existing authorities, better information sharing, and recent technological advances. But more work needs to be done to determine exactly how this system might work."
  • Senator Rand Paul will be on CNN after the speech: 

  • "Because of the challenges involved, I’ve ordered that the transition away from the existing program will proceed in two steps. Effective immediately, we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization instead of the current three. And I have directed the Attorney General to work with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court so that during this transition period, the database can be queried only after a judicial finding, or in the case of a true emergency."
  • "Next, step two, I have instructed the intelligence community and Attorney General to use this transition period to develop options for a new approach that can match the capabilities and fill the gaps that the Section 215 program was designed to address without the government holding this meta-data itself. They will report back to me with options for alternative approaches before the program comes up for reauthorization on March 28th. And during this period, I will consult with the relevant committees in Congress to seek their views, and then seek congressional authorization for the new program as needed."
  • "The reforms I’m proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe. I recognize that there are additional issues that require further debate. For example, some who participated in our review, as well as some members of Congress, would like to see more sweeping reforms to the use of National Security Letters, so that we have to go to a judge each time before issuing these requests."
  • "Here, I have concerns that we should not set a standard for terrorism investigations that is higher than those involved in investigating an ordinary crime. But I agree that greater oversight on the use of these letters may be appropriate, and I'm prepared to work with Congress on this issue. There are also those who would like to see different changes to the FISA court than the ones I have proposed. On all of these issues, I am open to working with Congress to ensure that we build a broad consensus for how to move forward, and I'm confident that we can shape an approach that meets our security needs while upholding the civil liberties of every American."
  • CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen says the true story of 9/11 wasn't a failure to have enough intelligence data. Read the story: Would NSA surveillance have stopped 9/11 plot?
  • "Let me now turn to the separate set of concerns that have been raised overseas, and focus on America’s approach to intelligence collection abroad. As I’ve indicated, the United States has unique responsibilities when it comes to intelligence collection. Our capabilities help protect not only our own nation, but our friends and allies as well. But our efforts will only be effective if ordinary citizens in other countries have confidence that the United States respects their privacy too."
  • "And 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 turn to surveillance. In other words, just as we balance security and privacy at home, our global leadership demands that we balance our security requirements against our need to maintain trust and cooperation among people and leaders around the world."
  • "For that reason, the new presidential directive that I have issued today will clearly prescribe what we do, and do not do, when it comes to our overseas surveillance. To begin with, the directive makes clear that the United States only uses signals intelligence for legitimate national security purposes, and not for the purpose of indiscriminately reviewing the emails or phone calls of ordinary folks."
  • "I have also made it clear that the United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent, nor do we collect intelligence to disadvantage people on the basis of their ethnicity, or race, or gender, or sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. We do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to U.S. companies, or U.S. commercial sectors."
  • "In terms of our bulk collection of signals intelligence, U.S. intelligence agencies will only use such data to meet specific security requirements: counter-intelligence; counter-terrorism; counter-proliferation; cyber-security; force protection for our troops and allies; and combating transnational crime, including sanctions evasion."
  • From CNN's Carl Lavin: 

    How important is 9/11 – I count
    nine mentions:

    1. The horror of September 11th brought these issues to the fore.
    2. It is hard to overstate the transformation America’s intelligence community had to
      go through after 9/11.
    3. We saw, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, our government engaged in enhanced
      interrogation techniques that contradicted our values.
    4. some of the worst excesses that emerged after 9/11 were curbed by the time I took
    5. they know that if another 9/11 or massive cyber-attack occurs, they will be asked,
      by Congress and the media, why they failed to connect the dots.
    6. fresh examination of our surveillance programs was a necessary next step in our
      effort to get off the open ended war-footing that we have maintained since
    7. Those who are troubled by our existing programs are not interested in a repeat
      of 9/11,
    8. Why is this necessary? The program grew out of a desire to address a gap
      identified after 9/11.
    9. One of the 9/11 hijackers – Khalid al-Mihdhar – made a phone call from San
      Diego to a known al Qaeda safe-house in Yemen.

  • Obama says he will pick up phone to talk to foreign leaders instead of having NSA surveil them
  • "In this directive, I have taken the unprecedented step of extending certain protections that we have for the American people to people overseas. I have directed the DNI, in consultation with the Attorney General, to develop these safeguards, which will limit the duration that we can hold personal information, while also restricting the use of this information."
  • It is fairly remarkable the US will extend some US legal protections to foreign nationals #NSA @BarackObama
  • Obama lays out reasons for foreign surveillance: Counterintelligence, counterterrorism, cybersecurity, force protection.
  • "The bottom line is that people around the world – regardless of their nationality – should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security, and that we take their privacy concerns into account in our policies and procedures. This applies to foreign leaders, as well."
  • "Given the understandable attention that this issue has received, I have made clear to the intelligence community that – unless there is a compelling national security purpose – we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies. And I’ve instructed my national security team, as well as the intelligence community, to work with foreign counterparts to deepen our coordination and cooperation in ways that rebuild trust going forward."
  • "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. We will not apologize simply because our services may be more effective. But heads of state and government with whom we work closely, and on whose cooperation we depend, should feel confident that we are treating them as real partners. And the changes I’ve ordered do just that."
  • "Finally, to make sure that we follow through on these reforms, I am making some important changes to how our government is organized. The State Department will designate a senior officer to coordinate our diplomacy on issues related to technology and signals intelligence. We will appoint a senior official at the White House to implement the new privacy safeguards that I have announced today. I will devote the resources to centralize and improve the process we use to handle foreign requests for legal assistance, keeping our high standards for privacy while helping foreign partners fight crime and terrorism."
  • People of other countries still have less privacy protection from US snooping, but president says will look for ways to limit
  • "I have also asked my counselor, John Podesta, to lead a comprehensive review of big data and privacy. This group will consist of government officials who—along with the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology—will reach out to privacy experts, technologists and business leaders, and look at how the challenges inherent in big data are being confronted by both the public and private sectors; whether we can forge international norms on how to manage this data; and how we can continue to promote the free flow of information in ways that are consistent with both privacy and security."
  • "For ultimately, what’s at stake in this debate goes far beyond a few months of headlines, or passing tensions in our foreign policy. When you cut through the noise, what’s really at stake is how we remain true to who we are in a world that is remaking itself at dizzying speed. Whether it’s the ability of individuals to communicate ideas; to access information that would have once filled every great library in every country in the world; or to forge bonds with people on the other sides of the globe, technology is remaking what is possible for individuals, and for institutions, and for the international order. So while the reforms that I have announced will point us in a new direction, I am mindful that more work will be needed in the future."
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