WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama disagrees with an independent watchdog group's conclusion Thursday that the National Security Agency's once-secret program that collects billions of Americans' phone records is illegal, the White House said.
In a major speech outlining his agenda to reform NSA surveillance, Obama last week pressed for a plan to move the phone records out of the government's control. But, unlike the watchdog group, he did not call for an end to the program.
"We simply disagree with the board's analysis on the legality of the program," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
He cited two federal court rulings that upheld the program's constitutionality, as well as the findings of at least 15 judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in the past seven years that the program could continue.
Congress is debating whether to end it, courts are weighing its legality and administration officials are searching for a way to salvage the NSA's ability to sift the phone records for terrorist connections.