WASHINGTON — The White House wants the National Security Agency to get out of the business of sweeping up and storing vast amounts of data on Americans' phone calls.
The Obama administration this week is expected to propose that Congress overhaul the electronic surveillance program by having phone companies hold onto the call records as they do now, according to a government official briefed on the proposal. The New York Times first reported the details of the proposal Monday night. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the plan.
The White House proposal would end the government's practice of sweeping up the phone records of millions of Americans and holding onto those records for five years so the numbers can be searched for national security purposes. Instead, the White House is expected to propose that the phone records be kept for 18 months, as the phone companies are already required to do by federal regulation, and that it be able to preserve its ability to see certain records in specific circumstances approved by a judge.
According to a senior administration official, the president will present "a sound approach to ensuring the government no longer collects or holds this data, but still ensures that the government has access to the information it needs to meet the national security needs his team has identified." The administration official spoke late Monday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the proposal before it was officially announced.
The president's plan, however, relies on Congress to pass legislation — something that has so far seemed unlikely.