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Saturday, December 3, 2016

ashington (AFP) – U.S. President Barack Obama met top spy chiefs as he finalized a decision on how to rein in National Security Agency spying sweeps following revelations by Edward Snowden.

Obama met the heads of the NSA, CIA, FBI and the director of national intelligence as part of a string of meetings with advocates on both sides of the debate on balancing privacy and national security.

“This was an important chance for the president to hear directly from his team as he begins to make final decisions about how we move forward with key intelligence collection programs,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.

The meeting included CIA chief John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA head General Keith Alexander and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey.

Obama was joined in the talks by Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder.

The president also held a meeting with members of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a watchdog body set up by Congress after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Obama promised that a report the board is preparing will be factored into the administration’s deliberations on how to move forward, the White House said.

On Thursday, Obama plans to meet top lawmakers with responsibilities overseeing the intelligence community — including some critics of NSA mass phone data capture programs — to discuss how to reform the intelligence community.

Aides say that Obama spent considerable time during his recent vacation in Hawaii mulling new constraints on U.S. security agencies in the wake of revelations of mass snooping by fugitive intelligence agency contractor Snowden.

The president will deliver his conclusions in a speech within weeks, and definitely before his annual State of the Union Address, which is scheduled for January 28.

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