Thursday, June 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Obama Outlines End of Phone-Data Collection

(CN) - As the government folds its bulk telephone-surveillance program, it will instead have telephone companies maintain records for a certain period of time, under a proposal summarized Thursday by President Barack Obama.

The White House fact sheet says the government would access such records only after submitting an individual warrant to the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and winning the court's approval - except in cases of emergency.

It is not clear how long the government would be allowed access to the data under a single warrant.

Any data provided to the government will be subject to privacy rules that the FISC approves, but the fact sheet released Thursday does not explain what limits those rules will impose.

Telephone companies would be compelled under the proposal "to provide technical assistance to ensure that the records can be queried and that results are transmitted to the government in a usable format and in a timely manner," the fact sheet states.

Obama will need Congress' support for his new plan.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called it "a worthy effort," but Reps. Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger submitted a competing bill that does not require judicial review before the NSA queries phone companies.

Until a new plan is passed, the Department of Justice will seek a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program from the FISC.

Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Administration, made the surveillance public knowledge last year when he leaked documents revealing that the NSA had forced Verizon to hand over "all call detail records or 'telephony metadata'" of U.S. customers placing international domestic and local calls."


Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.