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Live updates: Obama’s NSA reforms

After more than six months of controversy over U.S. surveillance policies, President Obama is speaking at the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday to outline how he intends to restore trust in the National Security Agency and in the government’s ability to balance national security and privacy interests. Check here for live updates and analysis from the Post’s national security, technology and White House reporters.

Obama: Leaders can't just say 'trust us' (Video)

“Given the unique power of the state,” President Obama said, “it is not enough for leaders to say, ‘Trust us: We won’t abuse the data we collect.’ ”

Obama: America held to a higher standard (Video)

President Obama said during his national security speech that America is rightly held to “high expectations” in regard to our surveillance programs.

Surveillance not a priority for Americans

People aren’t happy with government surveillance. The good news for the Obama Administration is that they don’t feel terribly strongly about it — or, at least, as strongly as they do about other issues.

Read more from Sean Sullivan on The Fix. And see the chart below for an illustration:

Public unhappy with surveillance but unmoved

In unveiling new limits Friday  on the National Security Agency’s sweeping surveillance efforts, President Obama addressed an issue on which the public opinion can be summed up like this: We don’t like what we see, but it’s not that big a deal for the government to address compared to other things.

Recent Gallup polling shows a couple of notable points: 1) A clear majority of Americans (63 percent) say they are dissatisfied with the state of the nation as it pertains to government surveillance of U.S. citizens and 2) It ranks low on the list of priorities they’d like to see Congress and the president address in the next year. Just 42 percent  say it is an extremely or very important priority — placing it lower than more than a dozen other matters.

For more, please check out The Fix.

Leahy: Bulk metadata collection 'has not made us safer'

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had this to say:

The American people are inching toward greater understanding – and eventually, perhaps, consensus – about both the sweep and the implications of these programs. When it comes to Americans’ privacy rights, our technological prowess will always present dilemmas and challenges. Simply because we can do something does not always mean that it makes sense to do it. … In the wake of these announcements, Congress has important tasks ahead.

Obama thanks Justice employees

Following the speech, President Obama greeted an overflow room of about 100 Justice Department employees, according to the White House pool report compiled by Boston Globe reporter Matt Viser. He thanked the employees for their service (“a lot of lawyers in this town put in a lot of hours but they get paid better than you all do”) and he noted, “I see your work product each and every day.”

“I hope that I have the occasion to meet some of you … but hopefully not when I’m in trouble,” he said to laughter.

Harry Reid likes Obama's speech

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) released a statement approving of President Obama’s policy changes, and adds a word of gratitude to intelligence workers:

Today President Obama proposed bold and real steps to reform the methods the intelligence community uses to keep us safe.  These proposed reforms will go a long way towards putting the imperatives of national security and personal liberty into an appropriate and sustainable balance.

I have always believed that we must maintain rigorous oversight and transparency over national security programs that affect American citizens. At the same time, we must be sure to provide our intelligence professionals with the tools they need to protect our country and defeat those who would do us harm. In the Senate, leaders from both parties have been working diligently on these issues, and I look forward to working with them and President Obama to implement the proposals outlined today.

I also want to express my appreciation for the hard-working men and women of the intelligence community. They dedicate their lives to protecting our safety, and we all owe them a debt of gratitude.

Snowden will respond next week

Julian Assange said on CNN that Edward Snowden will respond to President Obama’s remarks next week.

His response will stream on freesnowden.is.

(h/t Matt Delong)

McCain: Questions remain unanswered

Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) statement:

President Obama’s speech today left many crucial questions unanswered. Now is the time for Congress to improve how it executes its constitutional oversight duties, to examine certain signals intelligence collection activities and practices, and to ensure that we are fulfilling our obligation to protect both the security of our nation and the freedom of our citizens.

How Paul Revere could have been outed as a ‘terrorist’

Friday, the president started off his NSA reform speech with a reference to Paul Revere and the Sons of Liberty, saying:

At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee borne out of the “The Sons of Liberty” was established in Boston. The group’s members included Paul Revere, and at night they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America’s early Patriots.

But if the British Redcoats had access to the type of metadata and processing power the NSA does today, Revere probably would have been caught before he could go on his legendary midnight ride. In fact, even without cellphones, just by sifting through  the memberships of social clubs at the time it would have been possible to use relationships to identify the key people involved in groups like the Sons of Liberty — who surely would have been considered “terrorists” by the British Crown at the time.

Read more at The Switch.

Democratic Rep. Sanchez still critical

Here’s one Democratic congresswoman who isn’t happy with Obama’s speech (h/t to Rachel Faye Minske):

Did you miss the speech? Here's the only line you need.

President Obama’s speech pretty much took up a whole hour. But for the extra-condensed version, here’s the only sentence you need to get caught up.

Sen. Mark Udall praises Obama

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), a chief critic of the administration’s surveillance programs and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, appears to be happy.

1 sentence sums up Obama’s NSA speech

It’s worth pointing out that Obama’s big caveat — “as it currently exists” — gives him wide latitude on the issue. There are also going to be some big questions as to how he’ll pull off the second clause. But if you took away just one thing from Obama’s speech, it should be this:

I am therefore ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata program as it currently exists, and establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.

For a fuller explanation of what’s changing, click here.

Some civil liberties, rights groups unhappy with proposals

President Obama’s speech has not satisfied some civil liberties and human rights groups. His reforms fall short, they say.

“Nothing the president said today indicated that the wholesale collection of this information is to be brought to an end,” said National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Executive Director Norman Reimer.

And Kevin Bankston, policy director of New America’s Open Technology Institute, said the key question is “what’s next?”

If the ultimate decision is mandatory data retention by the phone companies or a third party, Obama “should be prepared for a major legislative battle with key members of Congress, the technology industry and the privacy community arrayed against him,” Bankston said.

Assange: Obama said 'almost nothing'

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was just on CNN. Here’s what he had to say:

“I think it’s embarrassing for a head of state to go on like that for 45 minutes and say almost nothing,” he said. “This president has been dragged, kicking and screaming, to today’s address.”

Assange did acknowledge that the idea of having a privacy advocate present before the FISA court when decisions are being made would be “a small advance.”

Early Capitol Hill reaction to Obama's speech

Reaction to President Obama’s speech is beginning to arrive.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) was one of the first to release a statement:

“I welcome the news today that President Obama will move to end the telephone bulk collection data as it exists,” Heller said. “This program is a form of government overreach that I believe crossed the line from protecting Americans to violating our Fourth Amendment rights. Several lawmakers shared these same concerns, which is why we joined together to introduce the USA Freedom Act last fall to end this program once and for all. Just as President Obama said today, the President and Congress must work closely together in order to strike the correct balance that allows our intelligence community to keep our nation safe without undertaking massive privacy intrusions.”

And Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, also hit “send” on his statement as the speech concluded. It said, in part:

“Today, President Obama articulated the fundamental principles at stake in the debate over how to reform our surveillance programs, and how we should balance security with privacy. …  I am pleased that the President clearly took the concern of the Review Group, Congress, and the American people seriously by announcing concrete steps to protect privacy, enhance oversight, and improve transparency of America’s surveillance efforts. …  I was particularly pleased to hear the President’s support for moving call record data outside of the NSA and requiring a court order to search it. The telephony metadata program is not without value, but the program can be restructured so that the government no longer collects the calling records of Americans in bulk. Doing so will achieve the same goals of protecting the nation from terrorism, but also be more respectful of privacy and with a minimal loss in efficiency. … The Congress should reject proposals that would house call records in some third party entity – such an entity will be rightly perceived as a subsidiary of the NSA and would do little to build public confidence.”

“I also was pleased to hear the President’s support for an adversary before the FISA Court so that there is a party charged with advocating on behalf of privacy and civil liberties of Americans.”

Snowden leaks 'more heat than light' (Video)

Here’s Obama again downplaying the idea that his speech today is because of what Edward Snowden has done:

Obama's history lesson (Video)

Here’s the president stressing the importance of intelligence-gathering to American history:

A tricky transition

Obama is ordering a transition away from NSA holding the phone database. He said he recognized that there are difficulties, and  wants the attorney general and the intelligence community to come back to him within 60 days with alternatives.

One problem with this approach is that relying on phone companies could require companies to alter procedures in ways that raise new privacy concerns. And relying on a third party turns that party into essentially an agent of the government — an arm of the intelligence community.

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