Thursday November 26th, 2015 11:35PM

Obama: End collection of Americans' phone records

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama asked Congress Thursday to end the government's bulk collection of Americans' phone records, a move that he said would address privacy concerns but maintain the administration's ability to counter terrorism.

Under the president's plan, the government would have to get a court order and ask phone companies to search their records for specific numbers that are believed to be associated with terrorists. Currently, the National Security Agency gets all call records from certain phone companies daily, and holds them for five years. When the NSA wants to search the database for a certain phone number connected with terrorism, it gets court approval to do so. This practice will continue for at least another three months.

The new proposal is a direct response to public outrage that began last June when former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden disclosed details of the once-classified program.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said the president could end the bulk collection now, if he wanted to.

``I hope he chooses this path,'' Leahy said earlier this week.

Congress has yet to come to a consensus on how to change the phone records program, though it's been hotly debated since last June.

The Bush and Obama administrations interpreted a particular section of the USA Patriot Act to authorize this bulk collection, and a secret surveillance court has signed off on the interpretation dozens of times since 2006. Others, including one federal judge and an independent review group appointed by Obama, do not read the law the same way.

Senior administration officials, who spoke anonymously because the White House would not allow them to be quoted by name, described the new plan to reporters Thursday.

Under Obama's proposal, the government would only seek specific records that the phone companies have in their possession. The phone companies are required by federal regulation to retain records for 18 months. Before the government asks the phone companies to turn over certain records, it has to get approval from the secret surveillance court that there is a reasonable suspicion the phone number in question is connected to a terrorist. In cases of emergencies, the government would not need to get court approval to ask the phone companies to conduct the search. A senior administration official would not explain what constitutes an emergency situation.

Under Obama's plan, the phone companies would quickly turn over the results of this search in a consistent format, which would require the phone companies to make some technical changes. The companies would then search for those numbers consistently over a ``limited'' period of time. A senior administration official would not specify the length of that time period.

Previously, the government searched for numbers distantly-linked to a specific number. The new plan would limit the distance of numbers connected to the original number believed to be associated with a terrorist. This means the government would only be able to search for the phone number of the suspected terrorist and the phone numbers of the suspected terrorists' contacts. Previously, the government was searching for the suspected terrorists' contacts' contacts. Even under the limited search, the government is likely to sweep up phone records of people who have no ties to terrorism.

``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,'' Obama said in a statement Thursday.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 10 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 10 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 10 months ago )
U.S. News
State DOT awards $48M contract for NE Ga. road project
The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $47.8 million contract for nine miles of work on a northeast Georgia road.
9:37AM ( 10 months ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 10 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 10 months ago )
Maysville man dies from Banks County wreck
The Georgia State Patrol reports that alcohol and/or drugs were factors a single-vehicle wreck that claimed the life of a Maysville man in Banks County Tuesday night.
11:07AM ( 10 months ago )
Local/State News
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 10 months ago )
Conviction of Putin foe sets off protest in Moscow
President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.
6:03PM ( 10 months ago )
More Georgians signing up for health insurance
A federal report says more Georgians have selected health insurance plans through a federally facilitated marketplace.
4:16PM ( 10 months ago )
White House undergoes Thanksgiving Day lockdown after man draped in American flag jumps fence
WASHINGTON (AP) — A man draped in an American flag climbed over the fence at the White House on Thursday, prompting a lockdown as the first family celebrated Thanksgiving.The man was immediately appre...
10:11PM ( 1 hour ago )
Obama grants reprieve to turkeys 'Honest' and 'Abe' during White House ceremony
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama spared two turkeys named for one of the nation's most admired presidents, continuing a White House tradition that provides a refreshing sense of amusement and...
9:18PM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: UN Security Council strongly condemns 'horrifying' attack in Mali, urges probe
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — The latest on the attack on a hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako. (All times local):___4:55 a.m.The U.N. Security Council is condemning "the horrifying terrorist attack" at the...
10:58PM ( 6 days ago )
World leaders vow vigorous response to Paris terror spree, but little indication of next steps
ANTALYA, Turkey (AP) — World leaders vowed a vigorous response to the Islamic State group's terror spree in Paris as they opened a two-day meeting in Turkey on Sunday, with President Barack Obama call...
2:14PM ( 1 week ago )
Rash of E. coli cases in Pacific Northwest highlights problem of foodborne illnesses
SEATTLE (AP) — As Chipotle prepares to reopen its restaurants in the Pacific Northwest this week after an E. coli outbreak that sickened about 45 people, health experts say foodborne illnesses are mor...
1:40AM ( 2 weeks ago )