The Obama administration is all set to prepare to unveil a law-making proposal that would see a far-reaching overhaul of the National Security Agency’s ‘not so secret’ bulk phone records program. The change would, if approved by Congress, end the main aspect that has caused the most alarm amongst privacy advocates since the program was leaked last year, according to senior admin officials.
Under the new proposal the N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data regarding the domestic calling habits of the country’s citizens. The records would stay in the hands of phone companies instead of the NSA. The phone companies would not be required to retain the data for any longer period of time than they normally would do. The N.S.A. could only obtain specified records by using a new kind of court order that was granted from a judge.
President Obama said in a speech in January of this year, that he wanted to get the N.S.A. out of the business of collecting call records in bulk while preserving the program’s abilities. The president acknowledged that there was no easy way to do so and had instructed Justice Department and intelligence officials to come up with a plan by March 28, 2014 when the current court order which authorizes the program expires.
The N.S.A. currently retains the phone data for a five-year period. But the administration considered and rejected imposing a mandate on phone companies that they hold on to their customers’ calling records for a period longer than the 18, this was a heavy burden that the companies had resisted. A senior administration official said that intelligence agencies had concluded that the operational impact of that change would be small because older data is less important.
The N.S.A. uses the call records program, known as the 215 program, after Section 215 of the Patriot Act, to analyze links between callers in an effort to identify hidden terrorist associates, if they exist. Executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Marc Rotenberg, said the administration’s proposal were a “sensible outcome, given that the 215 program likely exceeded current legal authority and has not proved to be effective.” Rotenberg would like to see more overhauls to other surveillance authorities, but he said the proposal was “significant” and addressed the major concerns with the program.
What do you think? Will the change really make that much of a difference? Will it make people feel at ease with the current levels of surveillance by the National Security Agency? As always, if you would like to leave a sensible comment, then please do so in the comments section below.
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