President Barack Obama announced plans Friday to reform the National Security Agency's telephone metadata collection program.
The changes are aimed at calming public and congressional outrage over the agency's surveillance program.
"I believe we need a new approach," the president said in a press conference Friday.
The so-called metadata-phone numbers of hundreds of millions of Americans and details of who they called and when-will still be collected but not stored by government. If the government wants to access the massive database, it will need court approval.
But according to national security law Expert Stephen Vladeck, "The devil is in the details."
"You know, how much of this reform conversation is going to be about curtailing the specific surveillance programs? And how much of it is going to be instead about improving the checks and balances on the programs that already exist?" he challenged.
The White House aggressively argued that the surveillance program has been critical in preventing terror attacks, even though its own review panel contradicted that claim.
"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.
The NSA political firestorm was sparked by the leak of classified information by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Last month, a special panel hand-picked by the president offered him 46 recommendations, including shutting down the phone surveillance program because it presents "a lurking danger of abuse."
But already critics say the president's announcement will make it more difficult for the intelligence community to do its job.
"It's a pre-9/11 mindset and makes me feel uncomfortable," Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and CIA, said.
The president wants the intelligence gathering changes in place by April.