Everyone is wondering what Barack Obama will do about the NSA, whether he will choose to reform the agency completely or pass the responsibility to Congress.
Well, Reuters is reporting that the NSA’s mass telephone metadata collection program will be completely overhauled, citing a senior Obama administration official.
The US president will give the speech at the Justice Department. He will reportedly take the telephone metadata program from the NSA’s hands and move it to third parties.
Basically, the bulk telephone metadata will no longer be in the possession of the government. Instead, the NSA and other government agencies will have access to it after they get court orders.
While intelligence officials may be frustrated with the decision, it should calm down spirits to some extent. The fact that this type of data will continue to be collected will certainly continue to make people unhappy.
It’s yet unclear who will control the bulk data, but telephone companies are high on the list of potential holders.
Reuters reports that Obama has asked Eric Holder, the attorney general, as well as the intelligence community to report back to him by March 28, when the program needs to be reauthorized by the FISA court, on how to preserve the program without the government being the one to hold the metadata.
He will also consult with committees inside the Congress.
While the phone call metadata program has garnered a lot of anger from the public and many have publically opposed it, there are countless other programs the NSA runs that violate user privacy of people across the world, including state leaders.
It is unclear whether the NSA reform will also include these other programs or if it will just focus on the metadata one. One of the pieces of advice given by the White House panel charged with reviewing the NSA is that the president should limit the agency’s powers so that the privacy rights of non-US citizens are also respected.