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POLITICS: PennAve

Obama talks NSA review with British PM David Cameron

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Politics,White House,Barack Obama,United Kingdom,PennAve,NSA,Surveillance,Meghashyam Mali,Foreign Policy

President Obama discussed his review of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs on Thursday with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The two leaders discussed a number of issues in a phone call as “part of their ongoing consultations on shared security challenges and advancing the special relationship,” the White House said in a statement.

The president “updated the Prime Minister on the ongoing U.S. signals intelligence review and both leaders noted the intensive dialogue that the United States and United Kingdom have had on these issues, at all levels.”

Obama on Friday will announce his reforms to the NSA’s monitoring and collection of phone and Internet traffic. He has been reviewing the recommendations from an outside panel which called for tighter oversight of the spy agency’s surveillance practices.

Leaks from former government contractor Edward Snowden disclosing the extent of the NSA's surveillance sparked a renewed debate over the proper balance between privacy rights and national security.

Both liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans have called on Obama to rein in the NSA, but privacy advocates fear that the president will largely punt the debate to Congress and pass few meaningful restrictions on the spy agency.

Obama has defended the NSA’s practices as lawful and said they had thwarted terror attacks and saved lives.

The U.S. and United Kingdom, along with Australia, Canada and New Zealand — collectively the “Five Eyes” — cooperate closely on intelligence matters. Other nations though have been sharply critical of the U.S. surveillance after reports the NSA also monitored the communications of foreign leaders.

A Downing Street spokesperson said “the two leaders welcomed the unique intelligence sharing relationship between their two countries.”

The White House said that Obama and Cameron also discussed the civil war in Syria and both “affirmed their commitment to the Geneva II process and addressed the growing humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict.”

“The Prime Minister and the President noted the ongoing progress on dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons program, as well as the important international contributions being made to this effort, including by the United States and United Kingdom,” the statement added. “They also discussed the growing security challenge posed by extremist groups in Syria and the region.”

White House Correspondent Brian Hughes contributed.

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