The New York Times reports that the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is preparing a legislative proposal that will completely overhaul the National Security Agency's controversial bulk phone data collection program. Under the proposed legislation, the bulk records would remain in the hands of phone companies, and the NSA could obtain specific call records only with permission from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge.
Currently, the NSA can keep phone data for five years. The change would have phone companies hold the records instead and only for 18 months, as required by current federal regulations. The report also says that the Obama administration will ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to renew the current program for another 90-day cycle, after which it will undergo major changes. The current court order authorizing the program expires March 28.
In January, Obama promised to end the bulk phone records collection program as it currently exists. He instructed Justice Department and intelligence officials to come up with a plan by March 28. A government watchdog also suggested that the program is illegal and should end.
The proposed legislation, however, does not cover other forms of bulk data collection. For example, the NSA would still have the power to collect web data in bulk. Similarly, the proposal does not affect the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) power to obtain bulk records of money transfers handled by companies like Western Union.