WASHINGTON — More than a year after President Obama promised to reform U.S. digital spying operations, the White House announced minor changes to how intelligence and law enforcement agencies may use electronic communications of foreigners collected by the National Security Agency.

Under changes made public Tuesday, information that is not relevant to a national security matter must be deleted from databases after five years.

Data may be held longer if it falls under one of six broadly defined areas: counterespionage, counterterrorism, counterproliferation, cybersecurity, threats to U.S. or allied armed forces or personnel, and transnational crime.

The modest reforms did not curtail the NSA’s controversial bulk collection of domestic telephone calling records, one of the classified programs exposed by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor now living in Moscow.

The incremental adjustments seem to show that U.S. counterterrorism officials have come to rely heavily on the collection programs, and were reluctant to revamp them despite Obama’s pledge to review them in a speech at the Justice Department in January 2014.

Critics of the NSA surveillance program believed the changes didn’t go far enough.

Elizabeth Goitein, an expert on government secrecy and co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, said the reforms are “positive steps.”Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who has been critical of the NSA’s practice of storing Americans’ telephone data, said, “There is much, much more work to be done.”

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