Three weeks ago President Obama announced his highly anticipated plans on NSA reform, which were designed to clamp down on mass data collection operations. New reports say at least two of the initiatives the President put forth are now being put into action.
A secret ruling made by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has now approved the two measures, both of which are directly tied to how the NSA can access the massive database of metadata it has accumulated. The first should potentially see the NSA require court approval on the basis of reasonable suspicion that the investigation is in some way connected to a known terrorist organization before accessing the data. The other is based on the degrees of separation or "hops" in which an NSA investigation can run. Previously, the agency was legally allowed to gather information on individuals within 3 degrees of separation of a target, that number now drops to 2.
Of the suggestions and proposals from Obama's speech, these appear to be the most obvious, much of the other changes are more long term and will require approval periods and Congressional involvement. When the President announced the latest NSA reforms last month, he also proposed that a third party take control of the massive collection of metadata, but until that happens the government will retain the database.
Much of the details of the latest FISA court ruling are secret, but it did order the government to determine whether or not the motion can be released to the public (along with previous rulings) by February 17.