Obama backs limits on NSA phone collections

By By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Seeking to calm a furor

over U.S. surveillance, President Barack Obama on Friday called for

ending the government's

control of phone data from hundreds of millions of Americans and

immediately ordered intelligence agencies to get a secretive

court's permission before accessing such records.

The president also directed America's intelligence agencies to stop spying on friendly international leaders and called for

extending some privacy protections to foreign citizens whose communications are scooped up by the U.S.

Still, Obama defended the American

surveillance program as a whole, saying that it has made the country

more secure and that

a months-long White House review of the procedures had revealed no

abuse. However, he said the U.S. had a "special obligation"

to re-examine its intelligence capabilities because of the

potential for trampling on civil liberties.

"This debate will make us stronger," Obama said during a highly anticipated speech at the Justice Department. "In this time

of change, the United States of America will have to lead."

Obama's announcements capped the review that

followed former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden's leaks

about

secret surveillance programs. If fully implemented, the

president's proposals would lead to significant changes to the NSA's

bulk collection of phone records, which is authorized under

Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act.

Even with Obama's decisions, key questions

about the future of the surveillance apparatus remain. While Obama wants

to strip

the NSA of its ability to store the phone records, he offered no

recommendation for where the data should be moved. Instead,

he gave the intelligence community and the attorney general 60

days to study options, including proposals from a presidential

review board that recommended the telephone companies or an

unspecified third party.

Privacy advocates say moving the data

outside the government's control could minimize the risk of unauthorized

or overly broad

searches by the NSA. However, the phone companies have balked at

changes that would put them back in control of the records,

citing liability concerns if hackers or others were able to gain

unauthorized access.

There appeared to be some initial confusion about Congress' role in authorizing any changes. An administration official said

Obama could codify the data transfer through an executive order, while some congressional aides said legislation would be

required.

Congress would have to approve another

proposal from the president that would establish a panel of outside

attorneys who would

consult with the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

on new legal issues that arise. The White House says the

panel would advocate for privacy and civil liberties as the court

weighed requests for accessing the phone records.

The moves are more sweeping than many U.S.

officials had been anticipating. People close to the White House review

process

say Obama was still grappling with the key decisions on the phone

record collections in the days leading up to Friday's speech.