White House sees need for ‘constraints’ on NSA spying

WASHINGTON: The White House moved on Monday to reassure U.S. allies and Americans concerned about the sweeping nature of the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices by acknowledging that more constraints are needed to ensure that privacy rights are protected.

Amid a growing uproar in Europe and a protest by a key U.S. senator, officials said they would review intelligence collection programs with an eye to narrowing their scope.

“We need to make sure that we’re collecting intelligence in a way that advances our security needs and that we don’t just do it because we can,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

President Barack Obama has come under fierce criticism abroad over allegations that the NSA tapped the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and conducted widespread electronic snooping in France, Italy, Spain and elsewhere.

The accusations have caused tensions between the United States and some of its closest traditional allies and could imperil a U.S.-European trade deal and trans-Atlantic
information sharing.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the White House had told her “that collection on our allies will not continue, which I support.”