Obama Proposes End to NSA Data Collection
President Barack Obama said he's ready to make sweeping changes to the government's controversial data collection program.
Last June, NSA leaker Edward Snowden first revealed details of the National Security Agency's sweeping program to collect and store the phone calls of millions of Americans.
For months following, President Obama and top administration officials argued the NSA's efforts were necessary in preventing terrorist attacks.
Now, the president's asking Congress to pass legislation that would end the bulk monitoring of American phone calls.
"Overall I'm confident it allows us to do what's necessary to deal with dangers of terrorist attack but does so in a way that addresses concerns people have raised," Obama said.
The president said he agrees with Congress: only phone companies should hold on to phone records.
He said the government should gain access to the data only when needed and by court order.
"We have to make some important decisions about how to protect ourselves and sustain our leadership in the world, while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections that our ideals - and our Constitution - require," he said.
Obama said a new approach was needed because NSA phone surveillance could potentially take the nation down a slippery slope of major privacy violations.
He wants Congress to draft a law having phone companies store those records instead. He also requests the data be kept for only 18 months instead of the five years the NSA holds it now.
According to the administration, this approach will allow the government to access to the information without collecting and securing it.
However, the plan needs congressional approval, which could be difficult to secure.
Tuesday at The Hague, Obama said the U.S. government needs to win back the trust of countries and ordinary citizens.
He said it's something that can be done slowly over time by following the core values that Americans believe in: privacy, rule of law, and individual rights.
If Congress agrees, the president's proposal will not only limit NSA data collection efforts, but it may also minimize the effectiveness of Republicans to use the NSA spying controversy as a major campaign issue in the months ahead.