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Obama to announce changes U.S. electronic spy programs

Obama to announce changes U.S. electronic spy programs

PanARMENIAN.Net - President Barack Obama is to announce changes to U.S. electronic spy programs after revelations made by ex-intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, according to BBC News.

He aims to restore public confidence in the intelligence community.

Obama is expected to create a public advocate at the secretive court that approves intelligence collection. His proposals come hours after UK media reports that the U.S. has collected and stored almost 200 million text messages per day across the globe.

A National Security Agency (NSA) program extracted and stored data from the SMS messages to gather location information, contacts and financial data, according to the Guardian newspaper and Channel Four News.

The report is the latest in a series of revelations from files leaked by Snowden, a former NSA contractor charged in the U.S. with espionage and currently a fugitive in Russia.

The NSA told the BBC the program stored "lawfully collected SMS data" and any implication that collection was "arbitrary and unconstrained is false".

Obama's speech on Friday, Jan 17, at Department of Justice comes after a five-person White House panel given the job of reviewing U.S. electronic spying programs in the wake of Snowden's disclosures presented their report in December.

Among their recommendations was the creation of a public advocate position at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), where judges have approved the mass spying program. Currently, only the U.S. government is represented in front of FISC judges.

In details leaked to various U.S. media by the White House, Obama is expected to endorse that position, as well as extending some privacy protections for foreigners.

He is also expected to include increased oversight of how the U.S. monitors foreign leaders and to limit how long some data can be stored.

But President Obama is not expected to endorse one of the panel's headline recommendations - shifting the storage of phone records from the NSA to the telecommunications firm or a third party where it can be queried under limited conditions.

He is expected to leave the decision on whether that should be implemented to Congress.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president believed the government could make surveillance activities "more transparent in order to give the public more confidence about the problems and the oversight of the programs".

The White House also said Obama had briefed UK Prime Minister David Cameron on the review of NSA activities.

The Guardian report describes an NSA program called Dishfire, which analyses SMS messages to extract information including contacts from missed call alerts, location from roaming and travel alerts, financial information from bank alerts and payments and names from electronic business cards,

It also alleges that the NSA's UK counterpart GCHQ searched the NSA's database for information regarding people in the UK.

In a statement to the BBC, GCHQ said all of its work was "carried out in accordance with the strict legal and policy framework".

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