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Official: White House to propose overhaul in NSA phone records data collection

Official: White House to propose overhaul in NSA phone records data collection
Brian Yaklyvich
News
Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 7:28am

The White House is preparing to introduce legislation that would end part of the National Security Agency's bulk phone records data collection program, a senior administration official told CNN.

The Obama administration's decision follows a lengthy review of surveillance activities at the NSA after disclosures of the government's signal intelligence program by the former U.S. government contractor Edward Snowden.

A senior administration official said President Barack Obama will unveil the proposal "in the coming days."

"The President ... will put forward a sound approach to ensuring the government no longer collects or holds this data, but still ensures that the government has access to the information it needs to meet the national security needs his team has identified," the official said.

But the official declined to specify where the bulk phone metadata, as it's called, would ultimately be stored.

One leading proposal would have U.S. phone companies hold the data, which details phone numbers and duration of calls but not the content of conversations, administration officials have said. However, the White House has also explored options for a third party to keep the data.

In a January speech, Obama outlined a series of steps -- some immediate and some requiring time to work out, possibly with Congress -- that would change some aspects of the NSA collection of phone records and other information but generally leave intact the core and function of existing programs.

The senior administration official said the President will seek to renew the NSA's collection as it stands until Congress passes legislation authorizing changes to the program.

The announcement comes during Obama's trip to Europe, where he's mobilizing support for isolating Russia over its military occupation and annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

The NSA's surveillance activities have come under global scrutiny.

During a bilateral meeting with the President of China Monday at a nuclear security summit in the Netherlands, Obama said the NSA's surveillance programs are not used to gain commercial advantages for private U.S. businesses, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters Monday.

The administration has been having ongoing consultations with Congress on the issue, including the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, according to the official.

In a meeting last week with tech company chief executives, "the President reiterated his administration's commitment to taking steps that can give people greater confidence that their rights are being protected while preserving important tools that keep us safe," the White House said in a readout of the meeting, which was closed to reporters.

Those attending the White House meeting included Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, CEOs Reed Hastings of Netflix; Drew Houston of Dropbox; Dr. Alexander Karp of Palantir; Aaron Levie of Box and Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google.

Diane Ruggiero contributed to this report 

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