The task force President Obama created to investigate whether the National Security Agency violates citizens’ privacy will likely soon recommend a big change to how the agency tracks everyone’s phone calls.
Multiple sources have told both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal that the reviewers don’t take issue with the NSA‘s habit of being able to look at the phone metadata—meaning all the information surrounding a call, like times and recipients, but not the audio—of practically every phone call made on U.S. soil. They would, however, keep the agency from possessing all of that information directly in its own database.
Make no mistake: your information would still be tracked. But rather than being stored all together in a single NSA database, it would be held by a third party, possibly the phone companies themselves. That’s actually already what happens, at least in the case of AT&T, which had secretly been storing its own customers’ metadata since 1986. If the NSA wanted a record of everyone a target had ever called, and everyone that person had ever called, it would then have to jump through a few hoops to get that information, possibly having to piece it together from multiple databases.
The recommendation, if Obama heeds it, could very well become law in the near future. One source told the Journal that the reviewers’ report on metadata “aligns very closely” with part of the USA Freedom Act. Currently pending in Congress, the act is widely thought to have the best chance of any proposed bills to reign in the NSA.
The Obama administration refused to verify the claims, noting the report isn’t due on Obama’s desk until Sunday. “We are not going to comment on a report that is not yet final and hasn’t yet been submitted to the White House,” a representative told the Daily Dot.
The panel is set to make a host of other recommendations for NSA policy changes, the sources said, though they didn’t find that any of the agency’s programs had actually violated U.S. law.
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