President Obama offered a firm defense of the United States’ surveillance procedures and emphasized that programs such as the National Security Agency’s protect Americans from terrorist attacks. Amid criticism of the NSA and other intelligence services, he also announced a number of potential fixes, most notably calling for an end to the government’s collection and storage of telephone metadata.
While he reiterated that the NSA already has strong safeguards to protect Americans’ privacy, he tasked a number of officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, with looking into alternatives in which the data can still be stored, but by a private or third-party organization. He also acknowledged that Congress would have to approve potential reforms to the program, including a panel of outside experts to represent privacy concerns with the current state of surveillance.
The president stated that he had explored possible reforms to the program prior to leaks by federal contractor Edward Snowden, who he acknowledged once by name but alluded to throughout the speech.