To recap: There has been considerable controversy about the privacy and civil liberties implications of the bulk telephone data collection program revealed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. (He revealed several surveillance programs by the agency.) The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies (created by President Obama in August after the Snowden revelations) issued a report (archive pdf) recommending against the telephone call record database. Recently, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), an independent oversight agency within the executive branch, released a report (archive pdf) on the NSA’s surveillance program that collects telephone records in bulk saying the NSA surveillance program is illegal and should be ended.
Now, there are two proposals that would end the NSA bulk telephone data collection program. In January, Obama announced reforms and proposed changes to the NSA surveillance programs, including the call record database surveillance program. The full transcript is here. Obama also issued a “Presidential Policy Directive, PPD-28,” (pdf) concerning signals intelligence activities. The New York Times reports on the administration’s proposal:
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is preparing to unveil a legislative proposal for a far-reaching overhaul of the National Security Agency’s once-secret bulk phone records program in a way that — if approved by Congress — would end the aspect that has most alarmed privacy advocates since its existence was leaked last year, according to senior administration officials.
Under the proposal, they said, N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The records would be stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order. […]
The new surveillance court orders envisioned by the administration would require phone companies to swiftly provide records in a technologically compatible data format, including making available, on a continuing basis, data about any new calls placed or received after the order is received, the officials said.
They would also allow the government to seek related records for callers up to two calls, or “hops,” removed from the number that has come under suspicion, even if those callers are customers of other companies.
The Washington Post reports that the House has drafted bipartisan legislation to end the program, as well. The Post reports:
The leaders of the House Intelligence Committee have drafted a bipartisan bill that would end the National Security Agency’s widespread collection of Americans’ phone data while, they say, preserving the government’s ability to gain information on spies and terrorists.
The measure, to be introduced Tuesday, is intended as a compromise that can offer a way forward for the Obama administration. But some privacy advocates are already expressing opposition. […]
The House bill would reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to make clear that the government can no longer collect any form of electronic communication in bulk, said its sponsors, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the committee chairman, and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), its ranking Democrat. […]
The bill, according to congressional aides, would bar the mass collection of different types of information, including phone call records and records of Internet activity. It also covers location information, aides said.
Significantly, it would not require telecommunication companies to retain data for longer than they do now. And it would require that the government serve a directive on the company that is being asked for data.
But unlike other pending legislation, it does not call for judicial approval of a specific phone number before a request for data is submitted to a company. […]
“If there is no judicial authorization beforehand, I don’t see the civil liberties community getting behind it,” said Harley Geiger, senior counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology.