If Congress approves, the Obama administration would stop
collecting the information, known as metadata, which lists millions
of phone calls made in the United States. The practice triggered a
national debate over privacy rights when the extent of the
surveillance program was exposed last year by former NSA contractor
Instead, the government would have to get permission from the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to review data about the
time and duration of telephone calls that it believes may be
connected to terror attacks, according to the New York Times, which
first reported the plan.
Obama, who on Monday met with world leaders in The Hague, has been
grappling with a backlash to U.S. government surveillance programs
since classified details about the extent of data-gathering were
first leaked by Snowden.
Snowden is currently in Russia under temporary asylum.
Obama has defended use of the data to protect Americans from
attacks. His plan seeks to hold on to "as many capabilities of the
program as possible" while ending the government's role in
controlling the database, the official said on background.
"The president considered those options and in the coming days,
after concluding ongoing consultations with Congress, including the
Intelligence and Judiciary committees, will put forward a sound
approach to ensuring the government no longer collects or holds this
data," the official said in a statement.
The Obama administration will renew the NSA's telephone metadata
program until Congress passes new authorizing legislation, the
Obama made some decisions about changes to the programs in January,
including a ban on eavesdropping on the leaders of friendly or
But he had charged his Attorney General Eric Holder and intelligence
agencies to make additional proposals for the metadata program by
March 28, when it comes up for reauthorization.
The New York Times said the administration will propose that
telephone companies keep the data. But companies will not be
required to hold on to the data any longer than they normally do,
the Times said.
The administration had considered requiring the companies to hold on
to data for longer than 18 months. The administration rejected that
idea after concluding newer data is most important for
investigations, the Times said.
[to top of second column]
Two top lawmakers on the House of Representatives' intelligence
panel were slated on Tuesday to unveil a bipartisan measure on
The bill, sponsored by Republican Mike Rogers and
Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger, would require the government to "serve
a directive" on telecommunication companies for data, the Washington
Post reported, citing congressional aides.
Their bill would not require court approval of the request before it
was made, but the court could order the data expunged if it was
later found not to be linked to suspicious activity, the Post
The U.S. government began collecting metadata shortly after the
September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. A surveillance
court allowed the data collection based on a legal provision known
as Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
NSA officials and lawmakers such as Senator Dianne Feinstein, the
Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have
defended the bulk metadata program, saying it helps the government
"connect the dots" between terrorist plotters overseas and
co-conspirators inside the United States.
But others said it went too far. One U.S. district judge has
criticized the program as an "arbitrary invasion" of privacy.
The Times said the administration's proposal would also include a
provision clarifying whether Section 215 of the act could be used in
the future to allow bulk phone data collection.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Peter Cooney;
editing by Eric
Walsh and Ken Wills)
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