President Obama today is calling for significant changes to the way the National Security Agency collects and uses telephone records of U.S. citizens, moving to transition away from government control of the information and requiring authorities to obtain a court order to get access to it, the Washington Post reports. After more than six months of controversy over U.S. surveillance policies, Obama is speaking at the U.S. Department of Justice to outline how he intends to restore trust in the National Security Agency and in the government's ability to balance national security and privacy interests.
The president says the NSA's metadata program remains a critical tool for U.S. intelligence agencies to root out and prevent terrorist activities. He also says the U.S. should be able to “preserve those capabilities while addressing the privacy and civil liberties concerns” raised by recent disclosures in the media about government control of the metadata. Obama asked Attorney General Eric Holder and intelligence officials to deliver a plan to transition away from government control of the information before March 28, when the program is due to be reauthorized by a secret court. Obama also is asking Congress to deliberate on the appropriate boundaries for the phone records collection.