The Washington Post

Changes to U.S. surveillance policy in detail: What happens next

President Obama announced a series of changes to U.S. surveillance policies on Friday, but his announcements mark only the start of reform. In some cases, Congress will have to take action; in others, the president has asked the Justice Department and the intelligence community for further recommendations. A breakdown:

Changes enacted by Obama:

●Heads of states considered close U.S. allies will now be off-limits for electronic surveillance. White House officials said they have already stopped collection on “dozens” of such targets.

●Whenever the National Securtiy Agency wants to query its database of U.S. phone records, it will have to get permission from a special surveillance court.

●The NSA will also face new limits on how widely it can search its database.

Changes sought by Obama:

●The president directed the attorney general and intelligence officials to determine how to remove the phone records database from government control, while ensuring the NSA can access to it when certain conditions are met.

●Obama called on Congress to establish a panel of public advocates who can represent privacy interests before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

●The president has instructed U.S. officials to develop new privacy protections for foreigners and to limit the duration of time the government can hold data about their communications.

Recommendations rejected by Obama:

●The FBI will still be able to issue national security letters — a form of administrative subpoena used to obtain documents such as financial statements and library records — without the approval of a court.

●The NSA has not been ordered, as many had wanted, to avoid building “back doors” into software, a practice that critics say weakens encryption standards, or to stop exploiting flaws in software to conduct cyberattacks.

Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.