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Obama Proposes End to Bulk Telephone Data Collection

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Posted on Mar 27, 2014

Photo by deepstereo (CC BY 2.0)

Nearly 10 months after Edward Snowden and Guardian reporters exposed the NSA’s telephone spying program, President Obama on Thursday said he would pursue legislation that would require the agency to seek customer records from phone companies on an individual basis via a still-secret court process.

The proposal appears to leave the rest of the agency’s domestic surveillance program—of emails and other online activity—intact.

“I have decided that the best path forward is that the government should not collect or hold [telephone] data in bulk,” Obama said in a statement. “Instead, the data should remain at the telephone companies for the length of time it currently does today.”

The Guardian reports:

The move goes further than Obama’s position on bulk surveillance in January, when the president left the door open to the possibility of the data being held by a private-sector third party. That position was vigorously opposed by the phone companies and criticised by proponents and critics of the NSA alike.

Bulk phone data would no longer be collected by NSA under the latest proposals. Instead phone companies would, in response to a court order, turn over a suspicious phone number as well as all the numbers it called and received, and all numbers those numbers called and received, on an “ongoing and prospective basis”, according to an administration official.

The administration has yet to decide on a specific time limitation for querying the data, but “there would be some limited time period,” the official told reporters on Thursday. “That’s something we’re going to have to talk with Congress about.”

Read more here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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