President Barack Obama is expected to endorse changes to the way the government collects millions of Americans’ phone records for possible future surveillance, but he’ll leave many of the specific adjustments for Congress to sort out, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the White House intelligence review.
That move would thrust much of the decision-making on Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act toward a branch of government that is deeply divided over the future of the surveillance apparatus and in no hurry to settle their differences and quickly enact broad changes. Among the key decisions Obama is expected to leave to Congress is whether the National Security Agency should continue hold the trove of phone records or move the data to the phone companies or another third party.
In a highly anticipated speech Friday, Obama is also expected to announce broader oversight of the process that helps determine which foreign leaders the U.S. government monitors. And he’s likely to back increased privacy protections for foreign citizens, a step aimed at soothing international anger over U.S. surveillance programs.
The speech marks the culmination of a months-long review sparked by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden, who leaked a trove of classified documents about the secret surveillance programs last year.
In another revelation about NSA activities, The New York Times reported Tuesday that the agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world — but not in the United States — that allows the U.S. to conduct surveillance on those machines.
The NSA calls the effort an “active defense” and has used the technology to monitor units of China’s Army, the Russian military, drug cartels, trade institutions inside the European Union, and sometime U.S. partners against terrorism like Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan, the Times reported.