As it happened: Obama's remarks on NSA review

Key points

  • US President Barack Obama has given a speech describing his plans to reshape the National Security Agency's electronic spying practices
  • Under the reform, the NSA will only collect data on phone calls two steps removed from a phone number associated with a terrorist organisation
  • The phone database can only be queried after a "judicial finding", and the NSA will no longer hold bulk telephone data
  • The curbs to the NSA's authority come after a series of leaks about its spying by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden
  • All times Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5)

Live text


  • Daniel Nasaw 
  • Deborah Siegelbaum 

Last updated 17 January 2014


Welcome to the BBC's live coverage of President Barack Obama's remarks regarding changes to National Security Agency's electronic spying operations.

Mr Obama is expected to order the NSA to stop storing data from Americans' phones, after a series of leaks about intelligence gathering. Recent revelations claim that US agencies have collected and stored almost 200 million text messages every day across the globe.


Mr Obama is expected to begin his remarks at the justice department at 11:00 Washington time (16:00 GMT).


Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent

The fact that the president is making this speech, effectively as a result of the biggest intelligence leak in recent history, is remarkable.

Will it address the public's fundamental concern (namely that the government has too much access to citizens' private communications)? No.

This is more about the mechanics of government eavesdropping than the principle. Changing who has storage custody of trillions of bytes of metadata will not change the basic fact that our personal communications are likely to continue to be intercepted and monitored.

TWEET 1047


tweets: Prediction: #POTUS #NSA speech will go long on blame, short on action. No hope for change from the Punter, not Commander, in Chief... Alas.


Mark Mardell, BBC North America editor

Prof John McLaughlin, a former deputy director of the CIA, tells the BBC Mr Obama will likely be conservative in his proposals.

"The danger here is that we could take steps which, if not carefully carried out, could limit the flexibility, agility and speed with which we can process intelligence material in order to disrupt terrorist plots and activity," Mr McLaughlin says. "That's the danger."


White House spokesman Jay Carney has described the aim of Mr Obama's speech as making intelligence activities "more transparent".

It will "give the public more confidence about the problems and the oversight of the programmes".


Mark Mardell, BBC North America editor

Obama may reveal more as he speaks, but it doesn't feel as if this will satisfy critics from the civil liberties groups. The White House is touting this as the most significant reform of surveillance since Obama took office. The NSA's huge data trawl will end in its current form.


Mark Mardell, BBC North America editor

That's the headline - any actual changes seem a bit fuzzy and pushed into the future. The government will no longer hold the material but the attorney general and the NSA itself are given 60 days to put flesh on the bones of a new plan.

Congress will be involved too. During the 60 days, all requests will need judicial review. The government will only be able to go 'two hops' from the immediate inquiry. The US will end spying on friendly world leaders.


Mr Obama commissioned a review panel following revelations of NSA surveillance practices last year. He is expected to announce the approval of a number of recommendations made by the panel.

Senior officials tell the US media the centrepiece of the reforms will be the order to stop the NSA from storing information about Americans' phone calls.

Storage of the data will instead fall to firms or another third party where it can be queried under limited conditions.


Mr Obama is also expected to approve the creation of a public advocate position at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), where government agencies request permission for mass spying programmes.

Currently, only the US government is represented in front of that court.