President Barack Obama has called for new limits on the National Security Agency’s access to Americans’ telephone data.
On Friday, the president proposed the changes, which will include moving the mass of telephone data out of NSA‘s possession, and into the hands of another party. The president gave the NSA and his attorney general 60 days to come up with a plan for how and where the data would be stored.
In his address, Obama said that the overhaul of NSA’s phone surveillance methods “will not be simple,” but that the government should begin a “transition that will end the Section 215 bulk collection program as it currently exists.”
Section 215 of the Patriot Act authorizes the collection of call records–including the date and time of the call, the number calling and called, duration of the call and the origin of the metadata record–but not the content of the call.
Obama also said that, effective immediately, the government can only tap into the database of telephone data with the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court, which overseas federal requests for surveillance warrants.
“The reforms I’m proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe,” Obama said on Friday.
He went on to say that additional surveillance issues required “future debate,” and the attention of Congress, over the use of national security letters, which government agencies use to demand information of companies.
The president’s address to the public came in the midst of a heated national debate on government overreach through surveillance tactics incited by Edward Snowden leaks.
Obama’s call for surveillance limits comes just a day after new leaks were publicized by The Guardian, revealing that the NSA collects almost 200 million text messages a day around the globe.
According to The Guardian, the mass collection of SMS messages under an NSA program called “Dishfire,” allowed the agency to “extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details” of mobile users.