President Obama called Friday for ending the National Security Agency's ability to store phone data from millions of Americans, and asked Congress, the Justice Department and the intelligence community to help decide who should hold these records.
In a long-awaited speech on government surveillance policies, Obama defended bulk collections of telephone and Internet data as important tools to combat terrorism.
The president also said civil libertarians have raised legitimate worries about the potential for abuse, and that he is seeking to balance the demands of national security and with the needs of personal privacy.
"We have to make some important decisions about how to protect ourselves and sustain our leadership in the world, while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections that our ideals -- and our Constitution -- require," Obama said during his speech at the Justice Department.
He added, "we cannot unilaterally disarm our intelligence agencies."
In the near term, Obama will modify the program to require a judicial finding every time the government seeks information from the phone database, officials said.