US President Barack Obama has “embraced” the fundamental surveillance structure used by his predecessor George W. Bush, a top former official said.
“The president has embraced it. He has got a political problem — and I don't mean to trivialize it, because in a democracy, political problems are very serious. He needs consent of the governed,” Former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden said appearing on “Fox News Sunday.” Obama said on Friday that he would have intelligence agencies attain judicial approval before they review databases of telephone calls’ information. But Hayden said although Obama wants to change the flexibility of government surveillance and add some oversight, the objective is the same. “He is willing to shave points off of flexibility, add administrative burdens, add oversight, but the objective is to keep on doing what he's doing." In his major policy speech, Obama also said that he had ordered a transition period during which the NSA’s bulk metadata program will be replaced by a “mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.”
But critics have dismissed his proposed overhaul, saying the proposals would have little effect on privacy rights and would only preserve the status quo. Hayden also said the president’s suggested reforms would “fundamentally preserve” the current surveillance programs. “He's going to cut back on some capacities -— he hopes at the margins — cutting into agility a bit, putting administrative burdens on; that could be risky, but it looks like he's going to accept that risk in order to fundamentally preserve the programs,” he said. The US intelligence community now has 16 spy agencies, more than 100,000 employees and a "black budget" exceeding $50 billion a year.