President Barack Obama said Friday he
will work with Congress on reforms of the portions of the PATRIOT Act that have
to do with collection of phone records, and will get outside experts to review
the government's intelligence-gathering technology.
Those are among the
steps he announced at a press conference Friday. He promised greater oversight of
info collection programs, better transparency about the legal underpinnings,
and new constraints on the use of that authority.
Those are in the
wake of revelations about info collection under the Act and the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act leaked by NSA analyst Edward Snowden.
The President said
that people who had lawfully raised the issue of privacy and security were
patriots, but that definition did not extent to Snowden.
The President also
said there needed to be more assurances that when the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees
government requests for warrants for info, it hears both sides of the story,
rather than just the government's.
President Obama said
that the intelligence community would make more information about its
collection public, describing it as getting the whole elephant in the room
rather than a trunk here and a leg there.
"high-level" group of outside experts will review intelligence
gathering technology, which he said was in service of "finding a needle in
a haystack" of global telecom. A report back from that group will be due
by year's end. The NSA is also installing a full-time civil liberties and
But while he was
acknowledging the government could be more transparent about what it was doing,
he also emphasized that the government was not interested in spying on private
citizens. He also said this country's restricted collection of online info
should not be confused with other countries that throw their citizens in jail
for going online.
Also at the press
conference, the President gave TV rightsholder Comcast/NBCU a reason to breathe
easier, saying he did not support boycotting the Olympic Games in Russia over the anti-gay