Published On: Tue, Mar 25th, 2014
MainBlock / Politics | By bmcsr | عدد المشاهدات 1,199

Obama: US must ‘win back the trust of ordinary citizens’ over data collection

Barack Obama confirmed on Tuesday that the US plans to end the National Security Agency’s systematic collection of Americans’ telephone data, admitting that trust in country’s intelligence services had been shaken and pledging to address the concerns of privacy advocates.

Under plans to be put forward by the Obama administration in the next few days, the NSA would end the so-called bulk collection of telephone records, and instead would be required to seek a new kind of court order to search data held by telecommunications companies.

The proposals come nine months after the practice was first disclosed by the Guardian, based on leaks from the whistleblower Edward Snowden. Obama conceded on Tuesday that the revelations had caused trust in the US to plunge around the world.

“We have got to win back the trust not just of governments, but, more importantly, of ordinary citizens. And that’s not going to happen overnight, because there’s a tendency to be sceptical of government and to be sceptical of the US intelligence services,” Obama said at a news conference in The Hague, where world leaders were meeting to discuss their response to the crisis in Crimea.

Legislators in the House of Representatives unveiled a separate bill on Tuesday that would significantly curtail the practice of bulk collection but lower the legal standards for the collection of such information. The House proposal would not necessarily require a judge’s prior approval to access phone or email data.

Neither the White House nor the House intelligence committee proposal would require telecommunications firms to keep such records any longer than the current 18-month maximum, a significant shift away from the five years during which they are currently held by NSA. The moves represent a significant overhaul of the secret mass collection practices of the past 13 years, as exposed by Snowden.

But under the White House proposals, the National Security Agency would still be able to gain access to the data from thousands of phone calls from a single court order. Phone companies would be required to provide phone records up to two “hops” – or degrees of separation – from a phone number suspected of wrongdoing.

Speaking in the Hague, Obama said he believed the reform proposals presented to him by the US intelligence agencies were “workable” and would “eliminate” the concerns of privacy campaigners. “I am confident that it allows us to do what is necessary in order to deal the threat of a terrorist attack but does so in a way that addresses people’s concerns,” he said.

In a statement, Senate judiciary committee chairman Patrick Leahy, co-author of the USA Freedom bill to reform the NSA, welcomed Obama’s plan to end collection of US phone records. “That is a key element of what I and others have outlined in the USA Freedom Act, and that is what the American people have been demanding,” he said.

“I look forward to having meaningful consultation with the administration on these matters and reviewing its proposal to evaluate whether it sufficiently protects Americans’ privacy. In the meantime, the president could end bulk collection once and for all on Friday by not seeking reauthorization of this program. Rather than postponing action any longer, I hope he chooses this path.”