Revelations of government surveillance programs, including the headline-grabbing PRISM, have been nothing short of a PR nightmare for the White House. President Obama, who ran in part on a platform that included opposition to certain elements of the Patriot Act and President Bush's illegal wiretapping program, has faced tough questions about his role in the NSA data collection system. Today, he addressed reporters in the White House press room and, as part of his regular briefing, began to layout a path to increased transparency that he hopes will re-earn the trust of the citizens.
After consulting with members of congress and civil liberties organizations, President Obama has come up with four initial steps to improve transparency and confidence, while working to maintain essential security apparatus. First up, is a direct dialog with congress about reforming section 215 of the Patriot Act, which is the part of the legislation regarding the collection of telephone records. Obama also took the opportunity to reiterate that the government does not have the ability to eavesdrop on phone calls without a warrant. The second step also involved congress and working to improve confidence in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Most notably, he said the government would pursue reforms that would ensure judges would hear opposing views from independent civil liberties proponents, in addition to government representatives.