During a news conference on Friday, President Barack Obama announced a four-step plan to reform National Security Agency surveillance programs in the wake of continued revelations from former contractor Edward Snowden.
His four points:
- Obama said he will work with Congress to enact reforms to Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, the section that allows the NSA to collect data on certain personal phone communications.
- The Department of Justice on Friday released the legal rationale for the government’s collection activities under Section 215.
- Obama announced the creation of an independent, blue-ribbon commission to review the NSA’s surveillance methods.
- Finally, he proposed a reform to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which would involve appointing a special privacy advocate to the court. This would also require Congressional action. It closely mirrors a proposal introduced in the Senate last week by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).
Obama said the reforms were not in direct response to Snowden’s leaks, but it was clear he wanted the White House to get ahead of the growing debate over NSA surveillance.
“Unfortunately, rather than an orderly and lawful process to debate these issues and come up with appropriate reforms, repeated leaks of classified information have initiated the debate in a very passionate but not always fully informed way,” Obama said.
He also bristled at the suggestion that the increased debate over surveillance would make Snowden a “whistleblower” or a “patriot.”
“I don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot,” Obama said.
Brendan Buck, the spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said in response to Obama’s press conference that Obama must make a more transparent, forceful defence of the programs and maintain their “operational integrity.”
“Much of any public concern about this critical program can be attributed to the president’s reluctance to sufficiently explain and defend it,” Buck said.
“Transparency is important, but we expect the White House to insist that no reform will compromise the operational integrity of the program. That must be the president’s red line, and he must enforce it. Our priority should continue to be saving American lives, not saving face
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