What they're saying about Obama's NSA speech

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Associated Press

Posted on January 17, 2014 at 3:34 PM

Reaction from lawmakers, privacy groups, foreign leaders, industry and the intelligence community to President Barack Obama's proposals to change the way U.S. intelligence agencies collect information:

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"Because the president has failed to adequately explain the necessity of these programs, the privacy concerns of some Americans are understandable. When considering any reforms, however, keeping Americans safe must remain our top priority. When lives are stake, the president must not allow politics to cloud his judgment." —House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio

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"Today President Obama proposed bold and real steps to reform the methods the intelligence community uses to keep us safe. These proposed reforms will go a long way towards putting the imperatives of national security and personal liberty into an appropriate and sustainable balance." —Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

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"President Obama's announced solution to the NSA spying controversy is the same unconstitutional program with a new configuration." —Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

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"President Obama's speech today left many crucial questions unanswered. Now is the time for Congress to improve how it executes its constitutional oversight duties, to examine certain signals intelligence collection activities and practices, and to ensure that we are fulfilling our obligation to protect both the security of our nation and the freedom of our citizens." —Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

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"As intelligence professionals, we have historically preferred to avoid the spotlight, but we know that for the foreseeable future, the public will remain focused on what we do and how we do it. To build on and maintain the trust of the American people and our international partners, we must embrace the president's call for transparency." —Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

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"The president's speech was empathetic, balanced and thoughtful, but insufficient to meet the real needs of our globally connected world and a free Internet." —Ed Black of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which represents Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other concerned tech companies.

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"Obama's speech is an important contribution toward restoring the trust we've lost in our close friend and ally in the past months. ... What's particularly welcome is that in future the same rules will apply to citizens of other states as for Americans." —Philipp Missfelder, a senior lawmaker in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party

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"Trust in EU-U.S. data flows has been affected by revelations on these intelligence programs and needs to be rebuilt. In recognizing the need for action, President Obama has taken important steps toward rebuilding that trust." —European Union Commission spokeswoman spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde-Hansen

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"Besides the words of the American president, the entire world wants concrete actions of respect for the sovereignty of nations." —Vanessa Grazziotin, a Brazilian lawmaker whose Senate panel is investigating U.S. espionage

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"The president's decision not to end bulk collection and retention of all Americans' data remains highly troubling. The president outlined a process to study the issue further and appears open to alternatives. But the president should end — not mend — the government's collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans' data." —Anthony Romero, American Civil Liberties Union executive director

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"Other necessary reforms include requiring prior judicial review of national security letters and ensuring the security and encryption of our digital tools, but the president's speech made no mention of these." —Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation

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"If the ultimate alternative to government collection is mandatory bulk data retention by the phone companies or mandatory bulk handover to a third party, the president should be prepared for a major legislative battle with key members of Congress, the technology industry and the privacy community arrayed against him." —Kevin Bankston of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute

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Associated Press writers Stephen Braun, Josh Lederman and Nedra Pickler in Washington, Michael Liedtke in San Francisco, Frank Jordans in Berlin, John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels, and Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.

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