Barack Obama has announced that the US is scaling back surveillance activities of the National Security Agency (NSA).
In a speech at the Department of Justice in Washington, Obama announced major changes to the handling of the US telephone “metadata” programme.
Obama promised that the US would not eavesdrop on the heads of state or government of close allies.
Damaging disclosures about US surveillance tactics by former NSA worker Edward Snowden have eroded Americans’ trust in their intelligence work.
“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,” Obama said.
Revelations that the US spied on allies like German Chancellor Angela Merkel caused uproar across Europe. The eavesdropping ban will help diplomatic healing.
“Our efforts will only be effective if ordinary citizens in other countries have confidence that the United States respects their privacy too. And the leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to know what they think about an issue I’ll pick up the phone and call them rather than turning to surveillance,” Obama continued.
The president made it clear that his administration’s anger over Snowden’s revelations had not abated.
Snowden is wanted on espionage charges, although some Americans would like him to be granted amnesty for exposing secrets they feel needed to be made public.