The Washington Post
US President Barack Obama signalled that he might halt the National Security Agency’s collection and storage of millions of Americans’ phone records and instead require phone companies to hold the data.
Speaking at a White House news conference, Obama said he would have a “pretty definitive statement” on proposed NSA reforms next month.
His remarks suggested that his views have changed significantly since details of the NSA’s far-reaching surveillance programmes were publicly revealed in June.
Obama said he believed that his administration had struck the right balance between intelligence gathering and privacy protection but acknowledged that concerns about the potential for abuse might make it necessary to rein in the programmes to restore public trust.
The president said his NSA review, based on the assessments of intelligence officials and other officials inside and outside of the federal government, would determine which programmes to maintain or eliminate, both domestically and internationally.
A White House panel released a report last week questioning whether the NSA’s sweeping collection of personal data had played any meaningful role in preventing terrorist attacks.
Obama all but endorsed one of the White House panel’s proposals, which would require phone companies to hold the data that the NSA has been collecting. “It is possible that some of the same information … can be obtained by having private phone companies keep those records longer” and allowing the government to search them under tight guidelines, he said.
But critics say that prospect would be as bad as or worse than having the NSA hold the records. Phone companies also do not want to be the custodians of data sought by law enforcement or civil lawyers.