US: protests rage as Obama prepares to speak on NSA reform
Americans gathered at the Justice Department in Washington, DC for anti-NSA 'Stop Watching Us' rally where President Obama is to give his NSA reform speech.
Earlier it was reported that anti-war group CODEPINK were planning on protesting outside of Obama’s speech.
"Though President Obama is scheduled to lay out reforms for the NSA spying program, we have little reason to believe they will be sufficient of implemented," co-founder Medea Benjamin said in a statement Thursday. "The intelligence agencies in the US are totally out of control - from mass dragnet spying, to killing by remote control – and it’s time for transparency and accountability."
Obama is scheduled to deliver his recommendations during remarks at the Justice Department at 11am ET (4pm GMT).
President Barack Obama will put an end to the controversial NSA telephone metadata collection and change the way it exists today, a senior US official said. President will order a transition of the current NSA intelligence-gathering program to the one that addresses concerns of privacy and civil liberties.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the scope of the surveillance program in June 2013. The world immediate reaction led to political scandals as it appeared that US intelligence followed Angela Merkel’s phone. The scandals united both parties in Congress to make changes in national security law.
According to the official, the president will recommend that the collection of Americans' phone records remain at the NSA temporarily as he seeks input from Congress and the U.S. intelligence community on where to store the data permanently.
Effective immediately, the administration will take steps to modify the program so that a "judicial finding is required" before the NSA queries the database, the official said.
The White House was tight-lipped when asked about the President's response to the recommendations and any proposed changes.
"I know there's a lot of speculation about what decisions he has made and, in some cases, there have been assertions of fact about decisions he's made that I know for a fact he had not yet made when those assertions of fact were made in the press," White House spokesman Jay Carney said, noting that he would not speculate on what was forthcoming.
As CNN reports, US federal courts are divided on NSA telephone data collection. One judge in Washington ruled preliminarily in December that it was probably unconstitutional on privacy grounds. A second judge ruling in another case in New York subsequently found it lawful.
The top-secret the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees the legal aspects of surveillance, earlier this month reauthorized the program for another three months.
The program is covered under Section 215 of the Patriot Act and has been authorized 36 times over the past seven years.
President Barack Obama on Friday will announce the end of a telephone metadata collection program that has come under harsh criticism, a senior US official said.
"In his speech, the President will say that he is ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 telephone metadata program as it currently exists," the official said, as Obama prepares to unveil long awaited reforms of NSA surveillance techniques.
President Obama will wade into treacherous waters Friday when he delivers his much-anticipated address on government surveillance. Obama was likely to accept a limited set of incremental changes, and hand the larger decisions to Congress - which is deeply divided over reform proposals. Obama's speech on Friday has been in the works for months, but when it ends, the question of how the NSA will be changed may be no closer to a resolution.
Privacy activists worry that he won't go far enough to curtail government snooping. Conservative national security experts want him to reject all recommendations for change; a member of Obama's own review panel is expressing disappointment over reports that the president will reject one of the panel's key recommendations.
After spending much of the last month pondering 46 recommendations he received from a blue-chip panel he convened in the face of public outrage spurred by a series of revelations on government snooping by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, Obama seems intent on taking a middle path.
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), a chief House proponent of ending the NSA's mass data collection, said he is staying in Washington on Friday to attend Obama's address.
"It's that important," Conyers told HuffPost. "My first evaluation of the speech will be, has he learned anything from what's happened since Snowden, or not? Am I convinced about his sincerity about the alarms that have been raised, and does he have a good solution for it?"
Conyers co-sponsored an amendment with fellow Michigan Rep. Justin Amash (R) in July that would have halted the NSA's bulk collection of phone record data.
"What I'm expecting is very modest changes, simply based on the press reports," said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who was among the first lawmakers to introduce legislation to reform the NSA's activities after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's leaks began in June.
"Congress has proved itself pretty incapable" of reforms, said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who on Tuesday introduced a bill that would transfer the responsibility to hold onto Americans' metadata from the NSA to telecom companies.
Geoffrey Stone, a left-leaning University of Chicago law school professor who was one of the five members of the president's review panel, said Thursday at a forum in Washington that he was skeptical that the panel would end up producing such a sweeping report.
"I will be disappointed if in fact the president does not call for the end of the government holding of the metadata," Stone said.
Voice of Russia, The Huffington Post, usatoday.com, AFP, CNN