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CNN: Anti-NSA Activists Don’t Like Obama Speech

Reprinted from CNN

In a development that should surprise absolutely no one, anti-NSA activists were quick Friday to say that President Barack Obama’s efforts to limit the agency’s spying activities didn’t go far enough.

Leading up to a speech in which he outlined reforms that include requiring court approval for analysts to dig into telephone data, Obama had promised to address privacy concerns while defending digital surveillance in the name of national security.

Advocates who feel that the National Security Agency’s techniques, some of which have been exposed by former contractor turned international fugitive Edward Snowden, represent a massive intrusion into citizen privacy responded quickly and often harshly.

Some examples:

Alex Fowler and Chris Riley, policy experts at Mozilla (makers of Web browser Firefox)

“We’d hoped for, and the Internet deserves, more. Without a meaningful change of course, the Internet will continue on its path toward a world of balkanization and distrust, a grave departure from its origins of openness and opportunity.”

Carl Messineo and Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, co-founders of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund

“Rather than dismantling the NSA’s unconstitutional mass surveillance programs, or even substantially restraining them, President Obama today has issued his endorsement of them. … The speech today was ‘historic’ in the worst sense. It represents a historic failure by a president to rein in mass government illegality and violations of fundamental rights.”

Electronic Frontier Foundation (via Twitter)

“Today, Obama took several steps toward reforming NSA surveillance, but there’s a long way to go. Now it’s up Congress & courts.” (The foundation gave Obama 3.5 points out of 12 on a scorecard it had created on its hopes for “real NSA reform.”

Anthony D. Romero, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union

“The president’s speech outlined several developments which we welcome. Increased transparency for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, improved checks and balances at the FISA court through the creation of a panel of advocates, and increased privacy protections for non-U.S. citizens abroad — the first such assertion by a U.S. president — are all necessary and welcome reforms.

“However, 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.”

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder

“I think it’s embarrassing for a head of state like that to go on for almost 45 minutes and say almost nothing. … It’s clear that the President would not be speaking today without the actions of Edward Snowden and whiste-blowers before him. … Security whistleb-lowers have forced this debate. This president has been dragged, kicking and screaming, to today’s address. He’s been very reluctant to make any concrete reforms, and unfortunately, today we also see very few concrete reforms.”