, WASHINGTON, District of Columbia August 10- President Barack Obama pledged to overhaul US secret surveillance, promising greater oversight and transparency and insisting he had no interest in snooping on ordinary citizens.
Weeks after former US contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of widespread snooping on private Internet and telephone use, Obama stood firm in denying any abuse but acknowledged that he needed to address growing concerns.
“All these steps are designed to ensure that the American people can trust that our efforts are in line with our interests and our values,” Obama told a news conference.
“And to others around the world I want to make clear once again that America is not interested in spying on ordinary people,” he said.
Obama said he would ask Congress to reform one of the most controversial sections of the Patriot Act passed in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks Section 215, which gives the government access to telephone and other records of its citizens.
In a newly declassified memo, the Justice Department said the program recorded data such as duration and numbers of phone calls feared to involve “terrorists” but did not record the conversations.
Obama also called for the start of debate in the court that authorizes surveillance, which now only receives requests from the government without hearing any counter-arguments as is customary in virtually all of the US judiciary.
Obama said the administration would make a greater effort at transparency, including by starting a website that describes intelligence activities.
And he said he would appoint a board of outside experts who will look more closely at surveillance programs and issue a report by the end of the year.