The White House defended the national security Agency's collection of phone metadata as an “important tool” on Thursday, and said it could be preserved even as President Obama implements other reforms at the spy agency.

“It is absolutely his view and our view that this program contributes to our national security and contributes to combating threats against the lives of American citizens,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney.

Civil libertarians are pressing Obama to implement tougher restrictions on the NSA and cited a new review of the surveillance programs, which questioned their necessity.

Carney was asked if President Obama stood by his earlier claims that the NSA’s controversial phone and internet monitoring had helped prevent terrorism.

“We stand by what we said in the past,” said Carney, calling the programs essential to national security.

The White House on Wednesday released the full report of an outside task force’s review of the NSA surveillance programs. Obama is reviewing the report and will announce which proposals he will implement to reform the agency in January.

The report includes 46 recommendations which would place new restrictions on the NSA’s surveillance programs. The authors also called for ending the collection of phone call metadata on Americans

Obama has publicly defended the NSA programs, saying they thwarted at least 50 terror plots and saved lives.

The NSA programs were disclosed by former government contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked classified information detailing the extent of the government's surveillance of electronic communications.