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Obama to consult intel leaders, Congress on NSA review

Updated: 2014-01-08 10:31
( Agencies)

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama will consult intelligence officials and congressional leaders as he nears the final stages of a review over how much to rein in US surveillance practices in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations, officials said on Tuesday.

Obama later this month is to unveil a series of intelligence reforms, including how the National Security Agency operates, with a view toward giving Americans more confidence that their privacy is not being violated.

Administration officials say Obama is open to taking the storing of bulk telephone data out of direct government control.

Officials said Obama also wants to make sure civil liberties concerns have greater prominence in the deliberations of the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves law enforcement requests to conduct surveillance of Americans or foreigners.

One proposal he is considering is to put a public advocate on the court to ensure adversarial views are heard, officials said.

Questions about US government spying on civilians and foreign officials burst into the open in June when former US spy agency contractor Snowden, now living in asylum in Russia, leaked documents outlining widespread collection of telephone metadata and email.

Obama spent part of his two-week Hawaii vacation considering some recommendations from an outside presidential advisory panel of experts. Separately, a lengthy internal White House review is nearing completion and will help form the basis of the president's reforms, to be laid out in a speech.

White House officials said Obama will hold meetings with people with a variety of perspectives as he nears the final stages of a continuing internal White House review.

He will meet on Wednesday with leaders of the intelligence community and with members of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight board, an independent panel that advises the White House on privacy concerns.

On Thursday, he will meet with congressional leaders on the subject.

Obama has given indications that he would like to strike a middle ground on how far to go in reining in the NSA, by saying some checks are needed on the system but that the United States cannot unilaterally disarm.

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