President Barack Obama today announced plans to limit the U.S. government surveillance programs that have come under criticism since leaks by a former spy agency contractor, pledging more transparency in such surveillance programs.
“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 told a news conference at the White House.
Saying that it was important to strike the right balance between security and civil liberties, Obama said he was unveiling specific steps to improve oversight of surveillance and restore public trust in the government’s programs.
“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,” Obama said, noting that he was confident the programs were not being abused.
The announcement could be seen as a partial victory for ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden who now resides in Russia, where he was granted asylum last week.
“I don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot,” the president said at the news conference in reply to a suggestion that the announcement indicated that Snowden had done the right thing by revealing the governments programs and their extent.
While he did not specifically indicate which programs would be reigned in, Obama pledged great oversight, transparency, and constraints, adding that he plans to work with Congress to pursue “appropriate reforms” of Section 215 of the anti-terrorism Patriot Act regarding collection of such information as phone records. He then insisted that the government had no interest in spying on “ordinary Americans.”
The President also said he wants to provide more details about the NSA programs to the public in an attempt to restore any trust that has been damaged by the Snowden disclosures.
A high-level group of outside experts will also be formed to review the U.S. surveillance effort.