Obama to meet with lawmakers about spying programs

 
 
The National Security Agency (NSA) building at Fort Meade, Md.
The National Security Agency (NSA) building at Fort Meade, Md.
Charles Dharapak / AP

McClatchy Washington Bureau

President Barack Obama will meet with a select group of lawmakers at the White House Thursday to discuss the federal government's surveillance programs.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who heads the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Tuesday she was attending the meeting, according to her office.

Others who are likely to be invited are Democratic Sens. Mark Udall of Colorado, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who have been vocal on the issue. Their offices did not respond to requests for comment.

Obama suggested in December that he may make significant changes to the government’s surveillance programs, including the contentious mass collection of phone records.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that Obama will announce changes before his State of the Union address Jan. 28.

Since June, former contractor Edward Snowden has leaked documents showing the National Security Agency has been collecting telephone and email records on tens of millions of Americans and foreigners, eavesdropping on allies such as Germany and Brazil, and spying on a host of global institutions.

An advisory panel recommended nearly 50 changes to the NSA’s surveillance programs, which have guided intelligence gathering by the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The proposals include an end to the NSA’s storage of Americans’ telephone records, more stringent handling of Americans’ data that is collected incidentally through targeting foreigners, concrete standards for targeting communications of foreign leaders, and the creation of a public interest advocate to represent Americans’ interest in front of the secret court that authorizes the spying programs.

Obama could administer some of the recommendations through executive actions, but others would require approval from a divided Congress, where support for NSA changes does not fall strictly along party lines.

A senior White House official said Tuesday that the meeting is one of a series of discussions that Obama will hold with various interested parties, including members of the intelligence community and privacy advocates. Obama met before Christmas break with members of the advisory panel.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will meet with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board Wednesday morning and with various leaders of the intelligence community in the afternoon.

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