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Obama expected to curb spying on foreign leaders, limit NSA access to phone records

The White House is in the midst of hosting a flurry of meetings with intelligence officials, civil libertarians and technology experts as the administration prepares to announce changes to some of the surveillance programs exposed by Edward Snowden.

According to preliminary reports, United States President Barack  Obama could soon ask the National Security Agency to stop storing  the   telephone records of millions of Americans and also scale  back the spying endeavors that target foreign  leaders.

President Obama spent Wednesday talking face-to-face with the  United States’ intelligence community’s top players, including  Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National  Security Agency Director Keith Alexander, and on Thursday he is  expected to host a closed-door meeting between White House aides  and key members of Congress. As RT reported previously,  the chairs of both the Senate and House intelligence committees  are expected to attend that outing, and invitations were extended  to other lawmakers who have expressed interest in reforming the  NSA but few others.

The president is reportedly close to announcing what changes  he’ll ask be made to the NSA’s operations that have served as a  thorn of the side of his administration since Snowden, a former  intelligence contractor, began leaking  classified documents to the media last June detailing those  programs.

“These meetings are an opportunity for the president to hear  from key stakeholders as we near the end of our review,”   National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden told the  Guardian newspaper this week.

An independent review group handpicked by the president in August  released a report last month containing 46 recommendations  for reforming the NSA, and on Thursday the Associated Press  reported that Mr. Obama is expected to endorse two of those  suggestions — particularly the pair involving the bulk collection  of telephone metadata and spying on foreign leaders.

The AP reported that the president is expected to make his  decision as early as next week, and other outlets have previously  reported that he’ll reveal those proposals before the State of  the Union Address on January 28.

In the interim, White House officials are expected to meet  Thursday with figures from groups critical of the NSA’s  operations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the  Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Open Technology Institute and  the Cato Institute. Pres. Obama is not expected to attend that  event.

Pres. Obama isn’t expected to wait for another review group to  hand in their own independent analysis of those NSA programs,  either. Members of the congressionally-sanctioned Privacy and  Civil Liberties Oversight Board met with the president on  Wednesday and said in a statement afterward that the president  focused throughout the conversation on the metadata program and  the secret court which approves it. But whereas that group is in  the midst of authoring their own report on the NSA programs, its  release has been delayed until at least late January, according  to the AP, and the president is expected to announce his decision  before then.

“He is still in the process of deliberating over the review  group’s report and hearing from others on the issues that were  raised in the review group’s report,” White House press  secretary Jay Carney told reporters during a briefing on  Wednesday this week.



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