Looks like the Feds have taken a lot of heat for the NSA, CIA, DEA, BATF and other agencies illegal tapping of phones and reading our emails. So instead of doing the right thing and stop violating our 4th Amendment rights, the Feds seem to want to pay the phone companies to spy on us, so they can claim the "government" isn't illegally spying on us. Big stinking deal!!!!
Obama: End collection of Americans' phone records
President Obama considers new proposals after people raised privacy concerns over once-classified NSA programs.
Eileen Sullivan, Associated Press 10:33 a.m. MST March 27, 2014
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama asked Congress Thursday to end the government's bulk collection of Americans' phone records, a move that he said would address privacy concerns but maintain the administration's ability to counter terrorism.
The new proposal is a direct response to outrage by Americans and others that began last June when former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden disclosed details of the once-classified program.
Under the president's plan, the government would have to get a court order and ask phone companies to search their records for specific numbers that are believed to be associated with terrorists. Currently, the National Security Agency gets all call records from certain phone companies daily, and holds them for five years. When the NSA wants to search the database for a certain phone number connected with terrorism, it gets court approval to do so. This practice will continue for at least another three months.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said the president could end the bulk collection now, if he wanted to.
"I hope he chooses this path," Leahy said earlier this week.
Congress has yet to come to a consensus on how to change the phone records program, though it's been hotly debated since last June.
The Bush and Obama administrations interpreted a particular section of the USA Patriot Act to authorize this bulk collection, and a secret surveillance court has signed off on the interpretation dozens of times since 2006. Others, including one federal judge and an independent review group appointed by Obama, do not read the law the same way.
Senior administration officials, who spoke anonymously because the White House would not allow them to be quoted by name, described the new plan to reporters Thursday.
Under Obama's proposal, the government would only seek specific records that the phone companies have in their possession. The phone companies are required by federal regulation to retain records for 18 months. Before the government asks the phone companies to turn over certain records, it has to get approval from the secret surveillance court that there is a reasonable suspicion the phone number in question is connected to a terrorist. In cases of emergencies, the government would not need to get court approval to ask the phone companies to conduct the search. A senior administration official would not explain what constitutes an emergency situation.
Under Obama's plan, the phone companies would quickly turn over the results of this search in a consistent format, which would require the phone companies to make some technical changes. The companies would then search for those numbers consistently over a "limited" period of time. A senior administration official would not specify the length of that time period.
Previously, the government searched for numbers distantly-linked to a specific number. The new plan would limit the distance of numbers connected to the original number believed to be associated with a terrorist. This means the government would only be able to search for the phone number of the suspected terrorist and the phone numbers of the suspected terrorists' contacts. Previously, the government was searching for the suspected terrorists' contacts' contacts. Even under the limited search, the government is likely to sweep up phone records of people who have no ties to terrorism.
"I believe this approach will best ensure that we have the information we need to meet our intelligence needs while enhancing public confidence in the manner in which the information is collected and held," Obama said in a statement Thursday.
Obama to propose ending NSA's phone-call sweep
WASHINGTON — To assuage privacy concerns, the White House and some lawmakers are pushing forward with changes to a surveillance program that would leave the bulk storage of millions of Americans' telephone records in the hands of phone companies, even though they are convinced the information now held by the government is protected and question whether the changes would actually do more to protect privacy.
President Barack Obama intends to ask Congress to end the bulk collection of Americans' phone records. Instead, the government would ask phone companies to search their records for possible links to terrorism.
Details of the government's secret phone records collection program were disclosed last year by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden. Privacy advocates were outraged to learn that the government was holding onto phone records of innocent Americans for up to five years. Obama promised to make changes to the program in an effort to win back public support.
Obama said that any alternatives to the government holding onto the phone records posed difficult problems and raised privacy issues. And Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he believes the data is safer with the National Security Agency, even though he recommended it be moved from the agency's custody.
"We're changing the program based on a perception, not a reality," Rogers said shortly before he introduced legislation that would end the program in its current form. Americans, Rogers said, don't want the government holding onto their data.
"They just didn't have a comfort level with the NSA holding, in bulk, metadata, even though we had huge levels of protection," Rogers said. "I do believe that privacy was better protected than you're going to see in the phone companies."
The metadata is the number called, the number from which the call is made, and the duration and time of the call, but not the content of the call or the callers' names.
The White House proposal, which has not been described in great detail yet, and the House Intelligence Committee's proposal both shift the custody of the phone records to the phone companies, which already hold onto the records for 18 months as federal regulations require.
In January, Obama tasked his administration with coming up with new options to the telephone records program by March 28. Obama said officials offered an option that he thinks is workable and addresses concerns raised by the public.
"I want to emphasize once again that some of the dangers that people hypothesize when it came to bulk data, there were clear safeguards against," Obama said Tuesday at a news conference in the Netherlands at the end of a nuclear security summit. "But I recognize that people were concerned about what might happen in the future with that bulk data. This proposal that's been presented to me would eliminate that concern."
"After Snowden, there was a lot of mistrust, and we have to deal with that," Rogers said.
The president's proposal would require congressional action, something that so far has seemed unlikely. Multiple bills have been introduced, with proposals ranging from killing the program outright to adding more layers of oversight. The government plans to continue its bulk collection program for at least three months. The March 28 deadline reflects the date that the current court authorization for the bulk collection expires. The administration has asked a court to renew it for at least three months, not unlike what it's requested in the past.
"The president's reported plan to end the bulk collection of phone records is a crucial first step towards reining in the NSA's overreaching surveillance," said Michelle Richardson, a legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "The change would replace the dragnet surveillance of millions of innocent people with targeted methods that are both effective and respect Americans' constitutional rights." Richardson also said the government should end other bulk collection programs, as well.
The bulk phone records collection program is set to expire in the summer. If Congress can't agree on changes before then, the program would end completely.