• 01.17.14

Obama Announces Overhaul Of NSA’s Data Collection

A new directive requires intelligence agencies to have a court order before accessing telephone metadata.

Obama Announces Overhaul Of NSA’s Data Collection
[Image: Flickr user sarah_wood]

On Friday, President Obama announced his plans to rein in the NSA’s surveillance programs, following recommendations made by an independent review panel.


In his speech, the President made it clear that he seeks to find balance between surveillance for national security, and civil liberties and the right to personal privacy. He admitted that, without proper oversight, bulk collection of telephone records “could be used to yield more information about our private lives, and open the door to more intrusive, bulk collection programs.” As a result, he has moved to overhaul the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program, calling on intelligence agencies and the Attorney General to come up with a way to continue collecting data, but to store it outside of the government, before March 28.

He also said that, effective immediately, “we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization instead of three.” Also, if the government wants to search the telephone database, it will need an order from a judge.

The new directive also specifically outlines overseas surveillance initiatives, making it clear that the U.S. does not use international intelligence “for the purpose of indiscriminately reviewing the emails or phone calls of ordinary people.” Obama said the surveillance of overseas leaders and others will be continuously reviewed. “The bottom line is that people around the world–regardless of their nationality–should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security.”

Just yesterday, new information leaked from Edward Snowden revealed the NSA has been collecting 200 million text messages per day.

About the author

Jessica Hullinger is a London-based journalist who covers science, health, and innovation. She currently serves as a Senior Editor at