Jan 17, 2014|
The President spoke about about reform and oversight of U.S. intelligence operations stemming from the disclosures by Edward Snowden about the broad scope of classified NSA surveillance programs, including the bulk collection of telephone records of American citizens. Mr. Obama's address comes after a Presidential commission made more than 40 recommendations for reforming the NSA.
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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)
Here's President Obama. Thank you very much like your. Thank. You so much we won't soon. And dogma of our republic. A small secret surveillance committee. Born out of the sons of liberty was established in Boston. And the group's members included Paul will be here. At night they were patrol the streets reporting back any signs. That the British were preparing raids against America's early patriots. Throughout American history. Intelligence has helped secure our country and our freedoms. In the civil war. Union balloons reconnaissance tracked the size of confederate armies by counting the number of -- bars. In World War II code breakers give us insights into Japanese warplanes. Democrat marched across Europe. Intercepted communications. Helped save the lives of his troops. After the war. The rise of the iron curtain and nuclear weapons only increased. The need for sustained intelligence yeah. And so in the early days of the Cold War president Truman created the National Security Agency or an -- To give us your insights into the Soviet -- And provide our leaders what information they needed to confront aggression and avert catastrophe. Throughout this evolution. We benefit from both our constitution. And our traditions of limited government. US intelligence agencies were anchored in a system of checks and balances. -- oversight from elected leaders and protections for ordinary citizens. Meanwhile totalitarian states like he's Germany offered a cautionary tale of what could happen when. Vast unchecked surveillance. -- citizens and informers. And persecuted people for what they serve in the privacy of their own homes. In fact even the United States proved not to be immune. To the abuses of surveillance. In the 1960s government. Spied on civil rights leaders and critics of the Vietnam War. Partly in response to these revelations. Additional laws were established in the 1970s to ensure that our intelligence capabilities could not being misused against our citizens. In the long twilight struggle against communism we had been reminded that. The very liberties that we sought reserve could not be sacrificed. At the altar of national secure. The fall of Soviet Union left America without competing superpower. Emerging threats from terrorists groups and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Place new and in some ways more complicated demands our intelligence agencies. Globalization and the Internet made these threats more cute this technology erase borders and empower individuals to project great violence as well as greater good. Moreover these new threats raised new legal. And new policy questions. For while few doubt the legitimacy of spying on hostile states. Our framework of laws was not fully adapted to prevent terrorist attacks by individuals. Acting on the wrong. Correcting and small ideological. -- ideologically driven groups on behalf of a foreign power. The horror of September 11 brought all these issues to before. Across the political spectrum Americans recognize that we had to adapt to a world in which. A bomb could be built in the basement. Our electric grid could be shut down by operators emotional win. We were shaken by the science. We have messed leading up to -- attacks. How to hijackers made phone calls to known extremists. And traveled to suspicious place's. So we demanded. That our intelligence community improve its capabilities. In the law enforcement change practices to focus more on preventing attacks. Before they happen. And prosecuting terrorists. After an attack. It is hard to overstate. The transformation. America's. Intelligence community had to go through after violent. Our agencies suddenly needed to do far more than the traditional mission of monitoring hostile power isn't gathering information for policy makers. Instead they were now asked to identify and target plotters and some of the most remote parts of the world. And to anticipate the actions. Of networks that by the very nature cannot. He easily penetrated with spies or performance. And it is a testimony to hard work and dedication. Of the men and women of our intelligence community that over the past decade. We've made enormous strides in fulfilling this mission. Today new capabilities allow intelligence agencies to track. Who -- terrorist is in contact -- and all of betrayal of his travel or respond. New laws allow information to be collected and shared more quickly. And effectively between federal agencies and state and local law enforcement. Relationships. With foreign intelligence services have expanded our capacity to repel cyber attacks. Have been struck. And taken together these efforts have prevented multiple attacks. And saved innocent lives not just here in the United States. Around blow. And yet. In our rush to respond to a very real. -- novel set -- threats. The risk of government overreach. The possibility. That we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of security. Also became more pronounced. We saw in the immediate aftermath of not what our government engaged in enhanced interrogation techniques that. Contradicted our values. As a senator I was critical. Of several practices such as warrantless wiretaps. And all too often. New authorities were instituted without adequate public debate. Through a combination of action by the courts. Increased congressional oversight. And adjustments by the previous administration. Some of the worst excesses that emerged after 9/11 were hurt by the time I took office. A variety of factors have continued to complicate. America's efforts to both defend our nation and uphold. Our civil liberties. First. The same technological advances that allowed US intelligence agencies to pinpoint an al-Qaeda cell in Yemen. Or an email between two terrorists in the -- hell. Also mean that many routine communications around the world are within our reach. At a time when more and more of our lives are digital. Prospectors. Disquieting for all of us. Second the combination of increased digital information and powerful supercomputers. Offers intelligence agencies the possibility. Of sifting through massive amounts of bulk data to identify patterns or pursue leads. That made fort impending threats as powerful tool. But the government collection and storage of such ball data also creates. A potential for abuse. -- The legal safeguards that restrict surveillance against US persons without -- war. Do not apply act foreign persons overseas. It's not unique to America few if any spy agencies around the world. Constrain their activities beyond their own borders. And the whole point intelligence is to obtain information that is not publicly available. But America's capabilities. Are unique. And the power of new technologies means that there are pure and pure technical constraints on what we can do. That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do. And finally intelligence agencies cannot. Function without secrecy. Which makes the work less subject to public debate. Yet there is an inevitable bias. Not only within the intelligence community but among all of us were responsible for national security. To collect more information about the world not less. So in the absence of institutional requirements for regular debate and oversight that is public as well as private. Or classified. The danger. Of government overreach becomes more acute. In -- particularly true when surveillance technology. And our reliance on digital information is evolving much faster -- girls. For all these reasons. I've maintained a healthy skepticism toward our surveillance programs after I became president. I ordered the programs be reviewed by my national security team and our lawyers. In some cases our changes in how we do business. We increased oversight and auditing. Including new structures aimed at compliance. Improved rules were proposed by the government and approved by the foreign intelligence certain surveillance court. And we sought to keep congress continually updated on these activities. What I did not do. -- stop these programs wholesale. Not only because I felt that they made us more secure. But also because nothing in that initial review and nothing but I've learned cents. Indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier. About the civil liberties of their fellow citizens. To the conference. In an extraordinarily difficult job. One in which actions our second guest success is our report and failure can be catastrophic. The men and women of the intelligence community. Including the NSA. Consistently follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people. They're not abusing authorities ordered to listen your private phone calls or -- jury immense. When mistakes are made. Which is inevitable in any large and complicated human enterprise the correct those mistakes. Laboring in obscurity. Often unable to discuss the work even with family and friends. The men and women have been SA know that if another nine elevenths or massive cyber attack occurs. They will be passed by congress in the media why they failed to connect the dots. What sustains those who work at NSA. And aren't other intelligence agencies draw these pressures. Is the knowledge that their professionalism and dedication play a central role. In the defense of our nation. Now to say that our intelligence community both the law and his staff but patriots. Is not to suggest that iron or others my administration felt complacent about the potential impact of these programs. Those of us who hold office in America have a responsibility -- constitution. And while I was confident in the integrity of those. Who lead our intelligence community. It was clear to me and observing our intelligence operations on a regular basis that changes in our technological capabilities. Were raising new questions about the privacy safeguards currently in place. Moral after an extended review. Of our use of drones in the fight against terrorist networks. I believed a fresh examination of our surveillance programs was a necessary next step. In our effort to get off the open ended war footing that we've maintained sense violent. For these reasons I indicated in a speech at the National Defense University last may that we needed a more robust public discussion. About the balance between security. And -- Of course what I did not know what time is -- within weeks of my speech. An avalanche of unauthorized disclosures would spark controversies at home and abroad. That have continued to -- -- Given the fact of an open investigation. And I don't dwell on mr. stone's actions. Or his motivations. I will say that. Our nation's defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with -- our nation's secrets. If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into the wrong hands to publicly disclose classified information. Then we will not be able to keep our people safe work conduct foreign policy. Moreover the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out. As often shed more heat than white. While revealing methods -- adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we may not fully understand for years to come. Regardless of how we got here. The task before us now. Is greater than simply repairing the damage done -- operations or preventing more disclosures from taking place in the future. Instead we have to make some important decisions. About how to protect ourselves. And sustain our leadership in the world while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections that our ideals and our constitution record. We need to do so not only because it is right. But because the challenges posed like threats like terrorism. And proliferation. And cyber attacks that are not going away any time zone they're going to continue to be a major prop. And -- intelligence committee to be effective over the long haul. We must maintain the trust of the American people. And people around the world. This effort. Will not be completed over night. And give them pace of technological change we should expect this to be the last time America has this debate. But I want the American people to know. That the work has begun. Over the last six months I created an outside review group on intelligence communications technologies to make recommendations for reform. I consulted wave -- Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board created by congress. I've listened to form -- -- privacy advocates and industry leaders. My administration has spent countless hours. Considering how to approach intelligence in this era of defused threats and technological revolution revolution. So before -- outline specific changes that I ordered let me. Make if you brought observations that emerge from this process. First. Every one was looked at these problems. Including skeptics of existing. Programs. Recognizes that we have real enemies and threats and that intelligence serves a vital role in -- We cannot prevent terrorist attacks or cyber threats. Without some capability to penetrate digital communications. Whether it's -- unravel a terrorist plot. To intercept malware that targets -- stock exchange. To make sure air traffic control systems are not compromised. Or to ensure that hackers do not empty your bank accounts. We are expected to protect the American people that requires us. To have capabilities. In this field. Moreover we cannot unilaterally disarm. Our intelligence it uses there's a reason why blackberries and iphones are not allowed. In the White House situation room. We know that intelligence services of other countries. Including some who feign surprise over the -- disclosures. Are constantly probing our government. And private sector networks. And accelerated programs to listen to our conversations. Intercept our emails and compromise our systems. We know that. Meanwhile a number of countries including some who have loudly criticize the other side. Privately acknowledge that America has special responsibilities as the world's only superpower. That our intelligence capabilities are critical to meeting these responsibilities. And that they themselves have relied on the information we -- to protect. Their own people. -- Just as ardent civil libertarians recognize the need for robust intelligence capabilities. Those with the responsibilities for our national security readily acknowledged the potential for abuse. As intelligence capabilities events and more more private information is digitized. After all the folks at NSA and other intelligence agencies. Are neighbors. They're our friends and family. They've got the electronic bank of medical records like everybody else. Their kids on FaceBook and its program. And maybe no more than most of us. The vulnerabilities to privacy that exist in a world where transactions are recorded in email and text and messages are stored. And even our movements can increasingly be tracked through the GPS on our phones. Murder that there was a recognition by all who participated in these reviews. But the challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone. Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy store and analyze. Our debt. And use it for commercial purposes. And so those targeted ads pop up on your computers. Smartphone periodically. But all of us understand that the standards for government surveillance must be higher. Given the unique power of the state. It is not enough for leaders to say trust us we won't abuse the data we collect. For history has too many examples when that trust has been breached. So the system of government has built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those and top. It depends wrong ball to constrain those in power. I make these observations to underscore that. The basic values of most Americans when it comes to questions surveillance and privacy convert a lot more than recruit characterizations that emerged. Over the last several months. Those were troubled by our existing programs are not interested in repeating. The tragedy of 9/11. And those who defend these programs are not dismissing the civil liberties. The challenges of getting the details right and that is not simple. Inspector in the course of our review. I've often reminded myself I would not be where I am today we're not for the purchase of dissidents like doctor king and who were spied upon by their own government. And as president. A president who looks and intelligence every morning I also can't help but be reminded. America must be vigilant. In the face threats. Fortunately by focusing on facts and specifics rather than speculation and hypotheticals. This review process has given me and hopefully the American people. Some clear direction for change. And to back and announced a series of concrete and substantial reforms that my administration intends to adopt administrative what. Or will seek to codify what congress. First. I have approved a new presidential directive for our signals intelligence activities. Both at home and abrupt. This guidance will strengthen executive branch oversight of our intelligence activities. It will ensure that we take into account our security requirements. But also our alliances. Our trade and investment relationships including the concerns of American companies. And our commitment. To privacy and basic liberties. And we will review decisions about intelligence priorities and sensitive targets on an annual basis so that our actions. Are regularly scrutinized by my senior national security team. Second we won't reform programs and procedures in place to provide greater transparency. To our surveillance activities. And fortify the sabres to protect the privacy of US persons. Since we began this review and including information being released today. We've declassified over forty opinions and orders foreign intelligence surveillance court. Which provides judicial review of summer most sensitive intelligence activities. Including the section seven -- two program targeting foreign individuals overseas. And the section. 215 telephone metadata program. Going forward I'm directing the Director of National Intelligence. In consultation with the attorney general. To annually review. For the purposes of the classification. Any future opinions of the court -- brought privacy implications. And to report to meet and to congress on these efforts. To ensure that the court hears a broader range of privacy perspectives. I'm also calling on congress to authorize the establishment. Of a panel of advocates from outside government. To provide that an independent voice in significant cases before the foreign intelligence surveillance court. -- We won't provide additional protections for activities conducted under section seven out. Which allows the government to intercept communications for targets overseas. Who have information that's important for our national security. Specifically I'm asking the attorney general and did not. To institute. Reforms that place additional restrictions on government's ability to retain search and use in criminal cases. Communications between Americans and foreign citizens incidentally collected under sections of -- took. -- In investigating threats. The FBI also relies on what's called national security letters. Which can't require companies to provide specific. And limited information. To the government without disclosing your orders to the subject of the investigation. These are cases in which it's important that the subject of the investigation. Such as a possible terrorists -- spot. Isn't tipped off. But we can and should be more transparent in how government uses this authority. Are there for directed. The attorney general to lament how we use national security letters. So that this secrecy. Will not be enough. That will terminate within a fixed taught. Unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy. We will also enable communications providers to make public more information than ever before a about the orders that they have receipt to provide data to the government. This brings me to the program that has generated the most controversy these past few months. The ball collection of telephone records under section 250. But we repeat what I said when this story first broke. This program does not involve the content of phone calls. Or the names of people making calls. Instead it provides a record of phone numbers in the times and lengths. Of calls. Metadata. That can be queried. If and when we have a reasonable suspicion that a particular number is linked. To a terrorist organization. Why is this necessary. That the program grew out of a desire to address a gap identified after nine elevenths one of the 9/11 hijackers. Khalid -- -- our. Made a phone call from San Diego to a known al-Qaeda safe house in yet NSA saw that call. But it could not seen that. The call is coming from an individual already in the United States. The telephone metadata program under section. 215 was designed to map the communications of terrorists so we can see. Who they may be in contact with -- as quickly as possible. And that's capability could also prove valuable in a crisis for example. If a bomb goes off and warmer cities in law enforcement is racing to determine whether a network is poised to conduct additional tax. Time is of the essence. Being able to quickly review. Phone connections. To assess whether a network exists. Is critical of that -- In some. The program does not involve in -- examining. The phone records of ordinary Americans. Rather it consolidates these records into a database that the government. Can query if it has -- specifically. A consolidation of phone records that. The company is party retained for business purposes. The remote -- group. Turned up no indication that this database has been intentionally abused. And I believe it is important that the capabilities that this program is designed to meet. Is preserved. Having said that. I believe critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards. This type of program could be used to yield more information about our problems. And opened the door to more intrusive. -- collection programs in the future. There also right. To point out that although the telephone book collection program was subject to oversight by foreign intelligence surveillance court. And has been re authorized repeatedly by congress. It has never been subject to vigorous public debate. For all these reasons I believe we need a new approach. I'm therefore ordering a transition. That war and the section 215 ball metadata program as it currently exists. And establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need. Without the government holding this ball metadata. This warmup except. The review group recommended that our current approach be replaced by one of which. The providers or a third party retain them the ball records. With government accessing information has made eight. Both of these options. Most difficult problems. Relying solely on the records of multiple providers for example could require companies to Alter their procedures and ways to raise new privacy concerns. On the other hand any third party maintaining a single consolidated database. Would be carrying out what's essentially a government function. But with more experience. More legal ambiguity potentially less accountability. All of which would have a doubtful impact on increasing public confidence that. The privacy is being protected. During the review process some suggested that we may also be able to preserve the capabilities we need. Through a combination of existing authorities. Better information sharing and recent technological advances. But more work needs to be done to determine exactly how this system might work. Because of the challenges. I've ordered that the transition away from existing program will proceed in two steps. Effective immediately. We will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization instead of the current free. And I have directed the attorney general to work with the foreign intelligence surveillance court -- -- during this transition period. The database can be queried only after a judicial finding. War in the case -- rumors. Next. Step two. I've instructed the intelligence community and the attorney general. To use this transition period. To develop options for a new approach that can match the capabilities and fill the gaps that the section 215 program was designed to address. Without the government holding this metadata itself. They will report back to me. -- options for alternative approaches. Before the program comes up for reauthorization on March 28. And during this period -- consult with the relevant committees in congress. To seek their views. And then seek congressional authorization for the new program has made. Other reforms I'm proposing today should give the American people greater confidence. That their rights are being protected even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Maintain the tools they need to keep the site. Not recognize that there are additional issues that require further debate for example. Some who participated in a review as well as some members of congress. Would like to see more sweeping reforms to the use of national security letters. So we have to go to a judge. Each time before issuing these requests. Here I have concerns that we should not set a standard for terrorism investigations. That is higher than those involved in investigating an ordinary crime. But I break. The greater oversight on the use of these letters may be appropriate and I'm prepared to work with congress on this issue. There are also those who would like to see different changes to fire support from the ones I propose. On all of these issues are open to working with congress to ensure that we build a broad consensus. For how to move -- I'm confident that we can shape an approach that. Meets our security needs while upholding the civil liberties of every American. Let me now turn to the separate set of concerns that have been raised overseas. And focus on America's approach to intelligence collection a brawl. As I've indicated the United States has unique responsibilities when it comes to intelligence collection our capabilities help protect not only aren't. Nation but. Our friends. And our allies as well. But our efforts will only. Be effective if ordinary citizens in other countries. Have confidence that the United States respects their privacy to. And the leaders are close friends and allies deserve to know that if I wanna know what they think about an issue. I'll pick up the phone and call them rather than turning to surveillance. In other words just as we balance security and privacy at home. Our global leadership demands that we balance our security requirements against our need to maintain the trust and cooperation. Among people and leaders around the world. For that reason the new presidential directive that I've issued today. What clearly prescribe what we do and do not do when it comes to war overseas surveillance. To begin where the director makes clear that the United States only uses signals intelligence. For legitimate national security purposes and not for the purpose of indiscriminately reviewing the emails are. Phone calls ordinary folks. I've also made it clear that the United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent. Nor do we collect intelligence to disadvantaged people on the basis of their ethnicity or race or gender or sexual orientation and religious beliefs. We do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to US companies. Or US commercial sectors. In terms of our -- collection of signals intelligence. US intelligence agencies will only use such data to meet specific security requirements. Counterintelligence. Counterterrorism. Counter proliferation. Cyber security Force Protection for our troops and our allies. And combating transnational crime including sanctions a break. In this director hire. Taken the unprecedented step of extending certain protections that we have for the American people. To people overseas. Our director DL not in consultation with the attorney general. To develop these safeguards which will limit the duration that we can hold personal information. Also restricting the use of this information. The bottom line is that people around the world regardless of their nationality. Should know -- the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don't threaten our national security. We take their privacy concerns into account. In our policies and procedures. This applies to foreign leaders as well. Given the understandable attention -- this issues received I've made clear to the intelligence community that. Unless there is a compelling national security purpose. We will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government are close friends and allies. I'm instructed my national security team as well as intelligence community. To work with foreign counterparts to deepen our coordination and cooperation. In ways that rebuild trust going forward. Now let me be clear. Our intelligence agencies will continue to gather information about the intentions of governments. The -- ordinary citizens around the world. In the same way that the intelligence services of every other nation does. We will not apologize simply because our services may be more effective. But heads of state -- government with whom we work closely and on whose cooperation we depend. Should feel confident that we are treating them as real partners. And the changes -- order do just that. Finally. To make sure that we followed through. All these reforms. I'm making some important changes to allow our government is organized. The State Department will designate a senior officer. To coordinate our diplomacy on issues related to technology and signals intelligence. We won't points a senior official of the White House to implement. The new privacy safeguards and -- announced today. I won't devote the resources to centralize and improve the process we used to handle former -- for legal assistance. Keeping our bystanders for privacy while helping foreign partners fight crime and terrorist. I'm also asked my council -- the best. To lead a comprehensive review. Of big data and privacy. This group will consist of government officials who along with the president's council of advisors on science and technology. Will reach out of privacy experts. Technologists. And business leaders and look how -- Challenges inherent in big day care are being confronted by both the public and private sectors. Whether we can forge international norms on how to manage this day. And how we can continue to promote the free flow of information in ways that are consistent we're both privacy. And secure. For ultimately. What's at stake in this debate. Goes far beyond a few months of headlines or passing tensions in our foreign policy. When you cut through the Norris. What's really at stake. Is how we remain true to who we are. In a world that is remaking itself at dizzying speed. Whether it's the ability of individuals to communicate ideas. To access information that would have once filled every great library and every country in the world. -- forge bonds with people on the other side's goal. Technology is remaking what is possible for individuals. And for institutions and for the international order. So all the reforms that I've announced it will point us in a new direction I am mindful that. More work will be needed in the future. One thing I'm certain. This debate will make a strong. And I also know that in this time of change. The United States of America will have to lead. It may seem sometimes that America is being held to a different standard. And -- the readiness of some to assume the worst motives by our government can't be frustrated. No one expects China to have opened debate about their surveillance programs. Or Russia and take privacy concerns of citizens and other places and look at. But let's remember. We are held to a different standard precisely because. We have been at the forefront of defending personal privacy and human dignity. As the nation that developed the Internet. The world expects us to ensure that the digital revolution works as a tool for individual empowerment. Not government control. Having faced down the dangers. Of totalitarianism. Fascism communism. The world expects us to stand up for the principle. That every person has the right to think. And bright. And form relationships. Freely. Because individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress. Those values make us who we are. And because of the strength of our democracy we should not shy away. From high expectations. For more than two centuries. Our constitution has weathered every type of change because we've been willing to defend. And because we've been willing to question the actions that have been taken in its defense. Today is no different. I believe we can meet. High expectations. Together let us chart a way forward that secures the life of our nation while preserving. The liberties that make our nation worth fighting for. Thank you god bless him. May god bless the United States Merck.