White House proposes NSA data collection end
By Rob Lever, AFP
March 27, 2014, 12:01 am TWN
WASHINGTON--The White House outlined plans Tuesday to end the National Security Agency's bulk telephone data collection on Americans, aiming to reassure the public following revelations about widespread surveillance.
The plan would keep the data outside of government while allowing access for national security reasons, officials said.
Key U.S. lawmakers welcomed the proposal, and one group put forward reform legislation along the same lines, with bipartisan support.
President Barack Obama — in The Hague for a nuclear security summit — called the White House plan "workable" and said it would protect privacy rights as well as national security.
"I am confident that it allows us to do what is necessary in order to deal with the dangers from a terrorist attack, but does so in a way that addresses some of the concerns that people had raised," he said.
A senior administration official said earlier that Obama had considered the results of a study he ordered in January into how the NSA could protect national interests without storing citizens' private data.
The comments came after reports in the New York Times and Washington Post that a major reform of data collection by U.S. intelligence agencies was imminent.
The Times reported that the records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would, and that the NSA would obtain specific records with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order.
A trove of documents leaked by fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden sparked an outcry in the United States and abroad about the vast capabilities of America's intelligence programs.
Snowden: 'Turning point'
Officials have defended the methods as necessary to thwart terror attacks, but the extent of the NSA's activities on home soil has divided opinion in the United States.
Snowden, in a statement issued through the American Civil Liberties Union, said Tuesday now sees a "turning point" in the effort to reform NSA surveillance.
"President Obama has now confirmed that these mass surveillance programs, kept secret from the public and defended out of reflex rather than reason, are in fact unnecessary and should be ended," the statement said.