Obama Is Restricting Use of Surveillance Data, Not Its Collection


President Obama’s first major speech on electronic surveillance, that “the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don't threaten our national security.” The Washington Post says Obama placed restrictions on access to domestic phone records collected by the National Security Agency, but the changes will allow it to continue or expand the collection of personal data from billions of people around the world, Americans and foreign citizens alike.

Obama used an unusually narrow definition of “spying.” It does not include the ingestion of tens of trillions of records about the telephone calls, e-mails, locations and relationships of people for whom there is no suspicion of relevance to any threat. Obama described principles for “restricting the use of this information” — but not for gathering less of it. “It's noteworthy that the president addressed only the bulk collection of call records, but not any of the other bulk collection programs revealed by the media,” said Alexander Abdo of the American Civil Liberties Union. “That is a glaring omission. The president needs to embrace structural reforms that will protect us from all forms of bulk collection and that will make future overreach less likely.”

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