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US President Obama expected to announce stricter limitations on NSA-spying

A senior US official has said President Barack Obama is set to announce major changes to the mass collection of telephone metadata by the NSA. The practice was first revealed by former NSA subcontractor Edward Snowden.

US President Obama will announce the end of

the National Security Agency's (NSA)

mass collection of telephone metadata during a highly anticipated speech on Friday, according to a senior official speaking on the condition of anonymity.

"In his speech, the president will say that he is ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 telephone metadata program as it currently exists," the official told news agencies on Friday.

Under the current program,

the NSA has the right to mine US citizens' phone records using backdoor legal procedures that do not require an individual's knowledge

.

Wants to preserve capabilities

Though the current metadata-mining program would be brought to an end, the senior official said the White House did not intend to completely eliminate this capability in the fight against terrorism.

The president believes the US "should be able to preserve those capabilities while addressing the privacy and civil liberties concerns that are raised by the government holding this metadata."

"He will consult with the relevant committees in Congress to seek their views," the official said.

President Obama's speech is scheduled for

11a.m. local time (1600 UTC) in Washington.

Revelations of the mass surveillance program by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden early last summer prompted outcry in the United States and abroad. There was particular outrage in Germany over a

revelation that Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone was being monitored.

The US government has defended the program as essential to its counterterrorism efforts.

Snowden has since leaked more information leading to the discovery of espionage on the US' closest allies and infiltration of other mass communication networks.

On Thursday, Britain's Guardian newspaper and Channel 4 News jointly reported that the NSA had been gathering data on millions of text messages daily,

in an operation codenamed "Dishfire."

kms/pfd (AFP, Reuters)

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