Sunday, January 21, 2018

For Obama, NSA review a quest for public trust

WASHINGTON — Faced with Edward Snowden's first leaks about the government's sweeping surveillance apparatus, President Barack Obama's message to Americans boiled down to this: trust me.

"I think on balance, we have established a process and a procedure that the American people should feel comfortable about," Obama said in June, days after the initial disclosure about the National Security Agency's bulk collection of telephone data from millions of people.

But the leaks kept coming. They painted a picture of a clandestine spy program that indiscriminately scooped up phone and Internet records, while also secretly keeping tabs on the communications of friendly foreign leaders.

Today, Obama will unveil a much-anticipated blueprint on the future of those endeavors. His changes appear to be an implicit acknowledgement that the trust he thought Americans would have in the spy operations is shaky at best. His focus is expected to be on steps that increase oversight and transparency while largely leaving the framework of the programs in place.

In previewing Obama's speech, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday that the president believes the government can make surveillance activities "more transparent in order to give the public more confidence about the problems and the oversight of the programs."

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