Obama proposes to end NSA phone record snooping

The Obama administration proposes to end the NSA's bulk phone record collection. Here's why the revamp gets sticky.

President Obama is proposing to nix the National Security Agency's practice to collect phone records in bulk.

According to the New York Times, the Obama administration will propose legislation that would end the NSA's bulk phone record program. If Congress approved the legislation, the NSA would need a court order to collect specific records on Americans.

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The news comes amid what could be construed as NSA fatigue. The debate over the NSA's practices, which were exposed by leaks by former contractor Edward Snowden, have fallen into two camps. The first camp is appalled that the NSA can snoop into everything from instant messages to social networking and calls. The other camp isn't all that surprised the government has such a large surveillance program. And then there's a middle ground that stays largely silent on the matter.

Obama promised NSA reform in January.

The gist of the Times article boils down like this:

  • A court order would require phone companies to provide records quickly in a compatible data format;
  • Phone companies would have to provide data on any new calls after the order;
  • The government could trace call records two calls removed from the first one tracked;
  • The NSA holds phone data for five years, but that could go down to 18 months.

While the Obama move is notable, a lot has to fall in place for the NSA revamp to happen. Congress has to approve. Companies need their say. And while most argue that the NSA shouldn't put millions of U.S. citizens under ongoing surveillance there's a need to monitor potential terrorists. Toss in compliance costs for companies that have to cooperate with the NSA and you have a complicated brew.