President Barack Obama said the U.S. can stop collecting and storing bulk telephone, e-mail and Internet records without compromising national security.
Obama said intelligence officials have presented him with “workable” changes to data collections by the National Security Agency that have raised objections in the U.S. and abroad over the reach of government surveillance.
Under the proposal, which parallels legislation agreed on by the House intelligence committee’s Republican and Democratic leaders, the government would no longer keep and hold mass phone records from U.S. companies including AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ:US) Carriers would be instructed to search their records for information.
“I’m confident it allows us to do what’s necessary to deal with the dangers of a terrorist attack but does so in a way that addresses some of the concerns that people have raised,” Obama said at a news conference at The Hague, where he was attending a conference on nuclear security.
Any changes to the current system requires action by Congress. Obama, making his first comments on the recommendations on what to do with the data that he sought in January, said his administration would work with lawmakers to pass legislation “quickly.”
Representatives Mike Rogers of Michigan, the intelligence committee’s Republican chairman, and C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger of Maryland, the top Democrat, outlined their proposal today. Their panel will play a key role in revamping spying programs exposed last year by former government contractor Edward Snowden.
Revelations about U.S. surveillance set off a global debate over the tradeoffs between privacy and security. Obama in January ordered his administration to develop alternatives to having the NSA collect and hold phone records, which include numbers dialed and call durations without content of conversations.
Obama said the NSA revelations have been “an irritant” in the U.S. relationship with some allies, though it doesn’t define it. The NSA is “not snooping into the privacy of ordinary Dutch, German or American citizens,” he said.
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