President Obama on Friday is expected to announce some new limits on the National Security Agency program that collects billions of Americans’ phone records, but he will call on Congress to help determine the program’s future, according to current and former officials familiar with the administration’s plans.
Obama has concluded that the program has value as a counterterrorism tool, the officials said, but is also confronting difficult political realities. The program’s sweeping nature has prompted serious privacy concerns, and a divided Congress is unlikely to renew it when the law underpinning the program expires next year.
“Congress has a responsibility to establish limits on government surveillance, so it’s entirely appropriate that Congress weigh in on the phone records program,’’ said Jeremy Bash, a former CIA and Pentagon chief of staff who said he was not briefed on Obama’s remarks.
Officials have said Obama’s speech is part of an effort to restore confidence at home and abroad in the government’s surveillance policies. While the NSA program has perhaps raised the most significant concerns about privacy, a series of disclosures over the past eight months has generated controversy over U.S. intelligence activities.