Skip to main content

President Obama to make 'definitive' statement about future of NSA surveillance in January

President Obama to make 'definitive' statement about future of NSA surveillance in January

Share this story

President Barack Obama has said that he will make a firm statement on reform of the US intelligence community in January. At an end-of-the-year press conference, he stated that "over the next several weeks," he would consider recommendations made by an oversight panel that filed its report in mid-December. "I'm going to make a pretty definitive statement about all of this in January," he said, noting that he would distinguish what would make sense and what would need to be refined. However, he maintained that surveillance so far had been performed responsibly. "In all the reviews, it hasn't been alleged that the NSA in some ways acted inappropriately in the use of this data," he said. "But what is also clear in the public debate, people are concerned about the prospect, the possibility of abuse."

Much of the conversation in the past weeks has focused on the bulk phone data collection program that was revealed in June; the panel has recommended that the intelligence community dismantle its collection of virtually all American phone records. Obama confirmed his support for this proposal: "It is possible, for example, that some of the same information that the intelligence community feels is required to keep people safe can be obtained by having the private phone companies keep these records longer, and to create some mechanism in which they can be accessed in an effective fashion." He brushed off criticism from federal judge Richard Leon, who ruled that the bulk record collection was an "Orwellian" program that likely violated the fourth amendment.

Obama declined to speak specifically about the chance of a pardon or plea deal for Edward Snowden. "Mr. Snowden is under indictment. He's been charged with crimes. And that's the province of the attorney general and, ultimately, a judge and a jury," he said. However, he repeated statements he's made before: that though he's glad a conversation about reform occurred, Snowden's leaks caused "unnecessary damage" to national security, while giving countries with worse privacy records the chance to point fingers at the US instead. "The fact of the matter is that the United States, for all our warts, is a country that abides by rule of law, that cares deeply about privacy, that cares about civill liberties, that cares about the Constitution."