Obama Calls for an End to the NSA’s Bulk Collection of Americans’ Phone Data by Sana Chaudhry

The White House is preparing a legislation that would end the National Security Agency’s collection of Americans’ phone data while still preserving the government’s ability to collect and gain information about terrorists.

According to senior officials, this legislation would allow call data to remain within the phone companies, and the companies would no longer be required to hold the data longer than they normally would. The NSA would only be able to obtain specific records with a permission from a judge.

President Obama stated in January that he wanted to get stop the NSA from collecting call records while preserving the program’s abilities. Obama was aware that this was no easy task and had instructed the Justice Department and intelligence officials to come up with a plan by March 28 – the day when the current court order authorizing the program expires.

The proposal – which is still in the works – requires phone companies to provide data on suspected terrorist numbers under a court order. These numbers will then be approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as having likely ties to a terrorist group.

The current proposal will be renewed for at least another 90-day cycle, but only under the plan the administration has developed.

The NSA currently retains information of phone data for five years. But the administration has rejected imposing a mandate on phone companies to hold calling records for a period longer than the 18 months the federal regulations already require.

The NSA uses the once secret call record program to analyze the linkage between callers to identify hidden terrorist associates. This was a part of the secret surveillance program former President George Bush put in place after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Jameel Jaffer from American Civil Liberties Union states, “We agree with the administration that the NSA’s bulk collection of call records should end.”

The Obama administration wants a judicial role to take place to determine whether the standard of suspicion was met for a phone number before NSA could obtain records.

The NSA’s existence was disclosed and declassified last year by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor. The disclosure led to a controversy that caused a scramble within Congress.

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