Obama Said to Call for Patriot Act Changes to Assure Public

President Barack Obama, responding to increasing public unease over U.S. surveillance programs, plans to announce today he’ll seek changes to the Patriot Act and appoint an independent panel to find ways to ensure privacy rights are protected, administration officials said.

Obama will begin his White House news conference today by outlining steps his administration is taking after revelations that the National Security Agency is collecting data about telephone calls in the U.S. and monitoring cross-border Internet traffic.

The president will ask Congress to change a section of the Patriot Act authorizing the surveillance, to increase oversight and transparency of government data collection programs, according to the officials who asked for anonymity to discuss the steps before the announcement. Obama also will propose providing a civil liberties advocate to participate in cases before the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

As part of Obama’s effort to reassure the public, the Justice Department and the NSA will release documents detailing the legal rationale for surveillance and describing controls and accountability in the programs, the officials said.

The steps follow revelations about two NSA programs by former computer security contractor Edward Snowden, who has been charged by federal officials with illegally leaking classified documents. Snowden is in Russia, which has granted him temporary asylum.

Government officials say the data collection is authorized by the secret court under the Patriot Act, passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, and is necessary to defend against future terrorist strikes.

The government last week announced that almost two dozen U.S. diplomatic posts in predominantly Muslim countries would be temporarily shut down because of the threat of an attack by al-Qaeda or affiliated groups.

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