WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama is expected to tighten restrictions on U.S. spying on foreign leaders and also is considering changes in National Security Agency access to Americans' phone records, according to people familiar with a White House review of the nation's surveillance programs.
Obama could unveil his highly anticipated decisions as early as next week. Ahead of that announcement, he is consulting with lawmakers, privacy advocates and intelligence officials who were invited to White House meetings today and Thursday.
"He's at that stage still where he's listening and discussing with a variety of stakeholders and appreciates very much the opinions and counsel he's getting on this matter," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Among the changes Obama is expected to announce is more oversight of the National Intelligence Priorities Framework, a classified document that ranks U.S. intelligence- gathering priorities and is used to make decisions on scrutiny of foreign leaders. A presidential review board recommended increasing the number of policy officials who help establish those priorities, and that could result in limits on surveillance of allies.
Documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. was monitoring the communications of several friendly foreign leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The revelations outraged Merkel as well as other leaders, and U.S. officials say the disclosures have damaged Obama's relations around the world.
Obama and Merkel spoke by phone today, but U.S. officials would not say whether they discussed the NSA issues.
The president also is said to be considering one of the review board's most aggressive recommendations, a proposal to strip the NSA of its ability to store telephone records from millions of Americans and instead have phone companies or a third party hold the records. The NSA would be able to access the records only by obtaining separate court approval for each search, though exceptions could be made for emergency national security matters.
It's unclear whether Obama will ultimately back the proposal or how quickly it could be carried out if he does.