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President Obama maintains balance with changes in NSA

The long awaited announcement from President Obama came today as planned to announce changes to the NSA, the N.Y. Times reported Friday.

The President had forty-six recommendations from his committee in December and additional input from technology leaders. A primary concern to the American people has been the ‘metadata’ collection. Obama announced the end of the controversial NSA telephone metadata collection program ‘as it currently exists.’

In a much-anticipated speech that ranged from broad principles to technical details, Mr. Obama said he would end the vast collection of phone data as it exists today. He will also restrict the ability of the National Security Agency to throw a net well beyond the data of an individual target and collect unlimited numbers.

Effective immediately, the NSA will have to seek prior approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court before initiating new queries of bulk meta-data.

The president ordered the NSA and Attorney General Eric Holder to develop recommendations over the next 60 days as to how the program should be structured, and how meta-data should be stored. This window coincides with the late March deadline by which Congress must vote to re-authorize many intelligence practices anyway.

The metadata collection has been at the center of the controversy due to the Snowden release of NSA files to newspapers.

In attempt to calm ignited foreign relations he would curb eavesdropping. This has been a major issue and loss of U.S. credibility with allies, particularly Angela Merkel of Germany.

Speaking from the Dept. of Justice Obama But Mr. Obama did not accept other recommendations that have been made to him on reining in surveillance, like requiring court approval for so-called national security letters, in which the government demands information on individuals from companies. That was a victory for the F.B.I. and other law-enforcement agencies, who argue that these letters are vital to investigations.

The president has been sharply criticized by companies that protest that the N.S.A.'s practices are costing them billions of dollars in foreign sales to customers in Europe and Asia who fear that American products have been deliberately compromised by the agency. He did not address this issue this morning.

Senior intelligence advisors have advised the President that ability is needed to break encryption and create ‘back doors’ to enter computer systems abroad and exploit flaws in software, the United States would be unilaterally disarming at a moment of heightened cyber conflict. The budget announced yesterday passing the Senate and onto Obama for signing included a two increase is Cyber Command budget to address cyber-attacks.

This issue has not generated the kind of public outrage that the surveillance has. But technology executives say it is at the top of their agenda, and they are already trying to develop ‘N.S.A.-resistant’ products. Meanwhile, from Germany to China, there is talk of boycotting some American hardware and cloud services that are viewed as compromised.

At this time one recommendation has not been accepted regarding Mr. Obama to have the members of the surveillance court selected by appeals court judges rather than exclusively by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Mr. Obama is not opposed to overhauling that process, administration officials said, but such a change would have to be authorized by Congress and he did not want to appear to be targeting the chief justice, John G. Roberts Jr.

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