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Obama backs limits on NSA phone collections

By WKTV News

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is ordering changes to the government's massive collection of phone records that he says will end the program "as it currently exists."

Obama says in a speech prepared for delivery at the Justice Department Wednesday that intelligence officials have not intentionally abused the program to invade privacy.

But he also says he believes critics of the program have been right to argue that without proper safeguards, the collection could be used to obtain more information about American's private lives and open the door to more intrusive programs.

Obama announced the changes after a months-long review spurred by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden's leaks about secret surveillance programs.

Obama says some of the foreign governments most loudly criticizing the National Security Agency's spying programs are relying on the data themselves.

Obama says a number of countries publicly criticizing U.S. data collection privately acknowledge that U.S. intelligence capabilities are critical to meeting its responsibilities as the world's only superpower. And he says they use the information the NSA collects to protect their own people.

In a speech Friday ordering changes to the programs, Obama also said some foreign countries "feign surprise" over disclosure of the programs have spied aggressively on the United States. He says that is why phones aren't allowed in the secure White House Situation Room.

Obama said, quote, "We cannot unilaterally disarm our intelligence agencies."

Obama says former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden's "sensational" revelations of classified spying programs could impact U.S. operations for years to come.

Some are calling for clemency for Snowden, who faces espionage charges and is residing in Russia. But Obama says U.S. defense depends, quote, "on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation's secrets."

He says if those individuals take it in their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, the United States will never be able to protect Americans or conduct foreign policy. He says Snowden's decision to go to the media "has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries."

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