Obama announces NSA reforms, defends surveillance

President Barack Obama announced Friday a slew of reforms to the National Security Agency while still maintaining the need for surveillance programs in the United States.

Most notably, Obama promised that the government will no longer hold on to metadata collected from citizens’ phone records. However, there are no plans to end the program altogether. According to a fact sheet provided by the White House, the administration will instead “establish a program that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding the data.”

Despite the controversy surrounding the NSA since June, Obama defended the surveillance programs and his decision not to eradicate them completely.

“What I did not do is stop these programs wholesale, not only because I felt that they made us more secure, but also because nothing in that initial review, and nothing that I have learned since, indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens,” Obama said, according to The Guardian.

Obama also plans to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. For cases involving major privacy concerns, Congress must authorize a panel of advocates independent from the government to add new voices in the courtroom.

In addition, intelligence agencies must be granted judicial approval to access phone records, The Guardian reported.

The president also claimed that the administration will no longer spy on foreign allies.

According to The Guardian, Obama’s speech has met mixed reviews. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) commended the administration for taking steps to maintain civil liberties, but said more changes are necessary for true reform.

Meanwhile, Edward Snowden has yet to respond to the president’s comments. However, it didn’t take Wikileaks founder Julian Assange long to speak up. Assange called the speech “embarrassing” for Obama in an interview with CNN Friday.

“He has been very reluctant to make any concrete reforms, and unfortunately, today we also see very few concrete reforms,” he said.