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President proposes end to mass phone data collection by NSA

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President proposes end to mass phone data collection by NSA

The debate over the US government's ability to collect telephone data in bulk continues to rage, but the President is ready to take some clear steps to rein in the practice once and for all.

In a statement posted by The White House Office of the Press Secretary today, President Barack Obama laid out further details on how he hopes to reign in how the National Security Agency (NSA) collects data from American citizens.

Following up on a January 17 speech that promised a shift away from the current draconian NSA policies, President Obama plans to disconnect prying government eyes from bulk data held by telephone providers.

The move would effectively end the so-called "Section 215 bulk telephony metadata program," forcing government agencies to obtain data on a case-by-case basis and only by request.

Legal maneuvers

The move shifts control back into the hands of telephone carriers and Federal judges, who can agree to access data under individual orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) or where "national security concerns" are at issue.

"I believe this approach will best ensure that we have the information we need to meet our intelligence needs while enhancing public confidence in the manner in which the information is collected and held," the President explained in a statement published Thursday on The White House website.

President Obama reached his decision after careful consultation with Congress, privacy and civil liberties groups as well as companies in the private sector as part of "alternative approaches" announced in January that were to be put into place by March 28.

The legislation proposed today won't be in place by that deadline, but the President has directed the Department of Justice to reauthorize the existing program -- with his January modifications in place -- for a period of 90 days while the government gets all of its ducks in a row.

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