White House: Let's End NSA Collection Of Phone Data (But Where Will All The Records Be Stored Now?)
Almost a year after Edward Snowden made the NSA's surveillance programs public, the government may stop collecting data from millions of phone calls — sort of. The White House is set to propose an end to part to the NSA spying program; if approved by Congress, the NSA would only have access to specific records with permission from a judge, senior administration officials told The New York Times.
The announcement is expected in the next few days. It's not yet clear where the records would go, though it may be the phone companies themselves. The program expires this Friday, and while the Obama Administration has asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to renew the program for another 90 days under the proposal, major changes would come when the program is up for renewal again.
But one major change would come in the form adding in cell phone calling records — yes, adding. So the NSA would benefit from this proposal, too. Last month, U.S. officials admitted that a lot of mobile calls weren't included in the program, limiting the NSA to just 30 percent of all calls made in the U.S. Obviously, with this change, the government would have a much larger database to access, but only through the approval of a judge. Which is kind of sneaky.
The timing for this overhaul ain't subtle. In recent months, reports have flooded in about the government spying on other countries, which has damaged international alliances. Politicians like Sen. Rand Paul have been vocal critics of the surveillance program, with Paul filing a lawsuit against the government which called the program unconstitutional. (Paul is now even taking partial credit for Obama's move to end the NSA's collection on the phone data. OK, then.)
Snowden himself has recently made a resurgence, openly condemning the programs at the SXSW conference. Plus, the spying scandal may cost the tech industry billions in international business, which has prompted Web companies to put even more pressure on the government to reform its program.
Additionally, it was reported Sunday that the NSA had been spying on Chinese servers long deemed a security threat by the U.S., according to documents made available by — you guessed it — former NSA contractor Snowden. The White House has been under fire after the extent of the surveillance program was made public knowledge last year by Snowden, who is currently under temporary asylum in Russia.
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama challenged his administration to come up with an alternate plan for the program, noting that allowing the phone companies to be the gatekeepers of the data would not be "simple." But phone company executives aren't happy about the proposal, saying they would only take control of the data if required to by law.