Obama Meets Lawmakers To Discuss Ongoing NSA Review

Jan 9, 2014
Originally published on January 9, 2014 7:36 pm
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel. Today, President Obama hosted a select group of lawmakers at the White House. The topic of the talks, the National Security Agency's controversial spying programs and how to change them to deal with privacy fears. In a moment, we'll hear from Colorado Senator Mark Udall who was in the meeting, but first, NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith has this update on the president's review of NSA practices.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Some time in the next two weeks, President Obama will give a speech outlining changes to the way the government gathers intelligence. This is how he described it at his end of year press conference on December 20.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I'm going to make a pretty definitive statement about all of this in January.

KEITH: Time for that definitive statement is drawing near and the all of this the president referred to is a lengthy report from the review group on intelligence and communications technology. He appointed the group after the leaks from former federal contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA collects bulk data on phone calls made by millions of Americans.

The review group made 46 recommendations, which President Obama has been considering, though he made it clear in December he wouldn't be accepting all of them.

OBAMA: The question we're going to have to ask is can we accomplish the same goals that this program is intended to accomplish in ways that give the public more confidence that, in fact, the NSA is doing what it's supposed to be doing.

KEITH: According to White House aides, the president is still finalizing his decisions, but he's getting close.

JAY CARNEY: He is still soliciting input, which he did today.

KEITH: White House spokesman Jay Carney gave a quick readout of the president's meeting with lawmakers.

CARNEY: This meeting was an opportunity for the president to hear from the members about the work that they have been doing on these issues since they last met and to solicit their input as we near the end of our internal review.

KEITH: There has been a flurry of meetings at the White House this week. Already, the president has met with leaders from the intelligence community and members of The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Tomorrow, White House staff will meet with representatives from tech companies. But Michael Allen, managing director at Beacon Global Strategies, who served on the National Security Council staff during the Bush administration, says at this point, these conversations are only likely to change the president's thinking around the margins.

MICHAEL ALLEN: Most of this is probably baked in his mind and he wants to consult with them on the way to a decision, but I think his mind is largely made up.

KEITH: And, he says, the president is going to have to propose some serious changes to satisfy the public and European allies. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.