US President Barack Obama has signalled that he may reform the way in which the NSA bulk collects and stores people’s mobile phone data following the Edward Snowden leaks.
Although Mr Obama said he had not yet made any decisions about the NSA’s collection programmes, he would have a “a pretty definitive statement about this in January”.
One reform he hinted at was to strip the NSA of the ability to store data in its own facility, instead having private phone companies hold the information.
Speaking at his end-of-year news conference, Mr Obama said: “ There are ways we can do it, potentially, that gives people greater assurance that there are checks and balances - that there's sufficient oversight and sufficient transparency.”
He added that NSA programmes such as bulk collection of phone records “could be redesigned in ways that give you the same information when you need it without creating these potentials for abuse.”
His hint at concessions came the same week a federal judge declared the bulk collection programme unconstitutional and a presidential advisory panel that included intelligence experts suggested reforms.
Both said there was little evidence any terror plot had been thwarted by the programme and the advisory panel offered 46 recommendations.
The bulk collection programme sweeps up the metadata of every phone call made in the US, storing the number called, the number from which the call is made and the duration and time of the call.
Obama continued to defend the need for the programme, citing national security and insisted that the NSA was not doing anything contrary to US law.
He did however concede that the revelations had shaken the “ confidence and trust” of some Americans.
“I have confidence in the fact that the NSA is not engaging in domestic surveillance or snooping around,” Mr Obama said. “We may have to refine this further to give people more confidence. And I'm going to be working very hard on doing that.”