Obama to propose changes to NSA bulk data collection, senators call for more restrictions
By End the Lie
The Obama administration is reportedly preparing to reveal a new legislative proposal that would end the bulk collection of phone records by the National Security Agency, if approved by Congress.
Senior administration officials told The New York Times that the proposal would dictate that records would remain in the possession of phone companies, which wouldn’t be required to hold on to the records for longer than they would otherwise.
The bulk collection of phone records came under intense public scrutiny last year after it was revealed that the NSA ordered Verizon to hand over records for all U.S. customers.
Under the proposal, the NSA would also be restricted to obtaining specific records only with a judge’s permission using a new kind of court order.
Senators have embraced the announcement but also called for even more action on the part of the White House.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said the NSA should immediately cease further collection of Americans’ phone records while awaiting congressional approval of the new plan, unless the agency has court-approved warrants, The Los Angeles Times reports.
“They can stop immediately,” Paul said. “There’s nothing forcing them to keep collecting the data.”
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, also expressed hope in the proposal.
“This is the start of the end of dragnet surveillance in America,” Wyden said.
Some of the headlines are somewhat misleading, with The New York Times saying that Obama is calling for an “end” to the bulk data collection.
In fact, the new type of surveillance orders proposed by the Obama administration would require telecommunications companies to promptly provide data about new calls placed or received after the order is received, according to the unnamed officials.
Furthermore, it would allow the government to obtain records of callers up to two phone calls removed from the number originally targeted. Those records could be obtained even if the callers are customers of other companies, according to The New York Times.
Still, it is a step forward, according to Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), who called it “significant.”
“We have many questions about the details, but we agree with the administration that the NSA’s bulk collection of call records should end,” said Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union, according to The New York Times.
“Compared to the grand scope of the surveillance state that we have seen laid bare before us this past year, this is a sensible proposal for reform but only a first step,” said Matt Simons, director of social and economic justice at ThoughtWorks, according to TechNewsWorld. “We welcome the implicit recognition by the president that the security agencies need to be reined in.”
The Obama administration has already decided to renew current surveillance program for an additional 90-day cycle, according to The Washington Post.
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