WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is ordering changes to the government's collection of phone records that he says will end the program "as it currently exists."
Obama said in a speech at the Justice Department on Wednesday that intelligence officials have not intentionally abused the program to invade privacy.
But, he also said, he thinks critics of the program have been right to argue that without proper safeguards, the collection could be used to obtain more information about American's private lives and open the door to more intrusive programs.
Obama announced the changes after a months-long review spurred by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden's leaks about secret surveillance programs.
Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.
PHONE RECORDS STORAGE
Effective immediately, the National Security Agency will be required to get a secretive court's permission before accessing phone records that are collected from hundreds of millions of Americans.
Also, the government will no longer be able to access phone records beyond two "hops" from the person they are targeting. That means the government can't access records for someone who called someone who called someone who called the suspect.
NATIONAL SECURITY LETTERS
No longer will national security letters be kept secret indefinitely.
SPYING ON LEADERS OVERSEAS
Revelations that the U.S. monitored the communications of friendly heads of state have sparked outrage overseas. Going forward, the U.S. won't monitor the communications of "our close friends and allies overseas" unless there's a compelling national security purpose.
SPYING ON FOREIGNERS
Obama is issuing a presidential directive that outlines what the government uses intelligence for, and what purposes are prohibited.
Obama called for a panel of outside advocates that can represent privacy and civil liberty concerns before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Those advocates would be present in for cases where the court is considering issues that are novel or significant — for instance, cases that raise a new issue the court hasn't dealt with previously.
Obama is directing the State Department to appoint a senior officer to coordinate diplomatic issues regarding technology and data-collection.