Obama orders redesign of NSA phone-records program

Obama orders redesign of NSA phone-records program

PanARMENIAN.Net - U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered a redesign of the NSA's controversial phone-records program, saying the secretive spy agency will now need court permission to get at stored data on calls and should no longer collect and store the information itself. Instead, the bulk metadata -- which includes information on calls placed and received -- will be held by a yet-to-be-determined third party, CNET reports.

The changes are among those announced by the president during a speech Friday, Jan 17, that revealed Obama's response to reform proposals made by his handpicked NSA review group. The group -- formed in response to the debate over civil liberties and national security sparked by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden -- had suggested the court order and third-party modifications as a way of guarding against the potential for government abuse of the data.

"It's not enough for officials to say, 'Trust us we won't abuse the data we collect,'" Obama said during the speech. Instead, legal controls are required.

Obama has charged the attorney general and intelligence agencies with developing a workable third-party solution for the Section 215 metadata program by the end of March and will also solicit input from Congress, since the change could require legislation.

Obama also ended spying on the heads of state of close U.S. allies; gave foreigners more privacy protections in regard to NSA surveillance; and created a public advocacy panel, so privacy concerns -- and not just the government's position -- can be aired before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

He passed on the review group's recommendation that a court order be required for national security letters -- administrative subpoenas used by law enforcement to demand customer data from companies -- but he said greater transparency would be allowed in regard to NSL requests and that companies would be able to provide more information to customers about the requests they receive.

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