With the administration continuing to face criticism over the U.S. government's domestic surveillance programs, President Barack Obama outlined a series of steps designed to increase confidence that the programs are not being abused.
In remarks at a press conference in the East Room of the White House on Friday, Obama reiterated the importance of striking the right balance between protecting national security and ensuring that the programs do not infringe on personal liberty.
The president noted that he met with members of Congress as well as top technology and privacy representatives to discuss ways to maintain that balance.
Following those meetings, Obama said that he has come up with four steps designed to move forward with the debate over the surveillance programs.
He said the first step is reforming the section of the Patriot Act that deals with the collection of the telephone records of millions of Americans.
Obama once again stressed that nobody is listening to Americans' phone calls but said changes can be made to provide additional confidence in the safeguards in place to prevent abuse.
Secondly, the president said he would work with Congress to improve the oversight of the programs by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISC.
Obama acknowledged concerns that the FISC might be tilted too far in favor of security and called for civil libertarians to have an independent voice in appropriate cases.
He also said that the surveillance programs can and must be more transparent and called on the intelligence community to make public as much information as possible.
Finally, Obama called for the formation of a high level group of outside experts to review the impact of high level communications technologies on how the programs are conducted.
The president said the group would examine the capabilities of new technologies and how to maintain trust of the people and prevent abuse. He said the group would file an interim report in 60 days and a final report by the end of the year.
Obama said the steps are designed to ensure that the American people can trust that the programs are strictly to protect national security, claiming, "America is not interested in spying on its own people."
Following his statement on the surveillance programs, Obama took questions from reporters on a number of issues, including relations with Russia, NSA leaker Edward Snowden, and recent terrorist threats.
Obama is scheduled to head to Martha's Vineyard following the press conference for a weeklong vacation with his family.
by RTT Staff Writer
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