Obama orders limit to U.S. spying over Snowden leaks

Stricter control will be enforced on how US agencies gather phone and internet data of governments, individuals and world leaders.

United States President Barack Obama has ordered limits on the vast gathering of data and eavesdropping on world leaders by US intelligence agencies, a move triggered by the leaking of extensive spying by the National Security Agency, NSA.

Whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, set off international debate and criticism of the US last year after revealing the scope of private phone and internet data collection by the NSA.

Mr. Snowden, who is wanted in the US for espionage, is living in exile in Russia.

In a crucial speech on Friday, Mr. Obama ordered restriction on the use of data collected by America’s intelligence agencies. He said civil liberties must be respected.

He however defended such spying, saying the US will continue to gather intelligence on other nations just like every other nation does. He warned that his country will not apologize for such effort just because the US was more effective than other countries.

Mr. Obama also directed America’s intelligence agencies to stop spying on friendly international leaders and called for some privacy protections to foreign citizens whose communications are sourced by the U.S.

He said he recognised that storing large amounts of data allowed for the likelihood of abuse.

Mr. Obama said U.S. intelligence agencies will only use bulk collection of data for fighting terrorism, protecting U.S. troops and allies, and combating crime.

“The reforms I’m proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe,” Mr. Obama said.

Under the new plans, details of phone calls would be held by a third party, and the NSA would have to seek legal permission before it could access that information.

A panel of independent advocates would also sit on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) which has responsibility for giving permission for mass surveillance programmes.

One of the biggest changes will be an overhaul of the handling of bulk telephone data, called metadata.

Under the plan, the government will not hold the bulk telephone metadata.

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