- Associated Press - Saturday, January 18, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is putting limits on the harvesting of Americans’ phone records and seeking revisions to a program that sweeps up email and Internet data around the world, seven months after former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden began divulging the secret spying. Some questions and answers about Obama’s plan:

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Q: Why did Obama decide to make changes?

A: The president has been under pressure since Snowden took an estimated 1.7 million documents from the NSA and gave them to journalists around the world. The U.S. public, Congress and allies overseas were shocked to learn the extent of the NSA’s post-9/11 surveillance. Soon after Snowden’s disclosure in June, Obama promised to review the system that has changed rapidly as technology improved.

On Friday, Obama defended the work of the U.S. spying apparatus as necessary to protect Americans and international allies. He left the programs mostly intact, but added restrictions.

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Q: Do the changes happen right away?

A: No. Some involve altering the USA Patriot Act, and that requires Congress to draft, debate and pass legislation. Other changes won’t be carried out until the administration resolves big logistics questions. In some cases, Obama ordered the Justice Department and spy agencies to figure out how to implement new privacy protections, which will take time.

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Q: Will the government get out of my phone records?

A: For now, the NSA will keep collecting and storing call data.

The program gathers the phone numbers called and the length of conversations, but not the content of the calls. Obama says the NSA needs to tap those records sometimes to find people linked to suspected terrorists.

But eventually he wants the bulk data to be stored somewhere out of the government’s hands, to reduce the risk that the information will be abused.

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Q: So where will my records go?

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