ObamaPresident Obama announced key initiatives for more transparency on National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs.

The initiatives include a restructuring of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, working with Congress to reform Section 215 of the Patriot Act, declassifying certain information, and a review of the country’s intelligence and communications technologies.

President Barack Obama: So the fact is, is that Mr. Snowden has been charged with three felonies. If, in fact, he believes that what he did was right, then, like every American citizen, he can come here, appear before the court with a lawyer and make his case. If the concern was that somehow this was the only way to get this information out to the public, I signed an executive order well before Mr. Snowden leaked this information that provided whistleblower protection to the intelligence community — for the first time. So there were other avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions.

But having said that, once the leaks have happened, what we’ve seen is information come out in dribs and in drabs, sometimes coming out sideways. Once the information is out, the administration comes in, tries to correct the record. But by that time, it’s too late or we’ve moved on, and a general impression has, I think, taken hold not only among the American public but also around the world that somehow we’re out there willy-nilly just sucking in information on everybody and doing what we please with it.

That’s not the case. Our laws specifically prohibit us from surveilling U.S. persons without a warrant. And there are a whole range of safeguards that have been put in place to make sure that that basic principle is abided by.

The President also held a series of meetings with intelligence community leaders, and “directed them to press forward with declassification of relevant materials, to the maximum extent possible, without undermining national security”, according to a statement from the White House.

The President met with a group of leaders from the private sector, civil society and academia on Thursday. 

Here is the link to the remarks made by the President on the NSA surveillance program overhaul.

[Image courtesy: Pete Souza / The White House]