Monday, March 24, 2014

Obama calls for end of bulk telephone metadata collection

The New York Times reports that the president will ask Congress not to renew the authorization for the NSA to collect all the telephone numbers of calls made in the US, one of the most shocking of Snowden's revelations. Obama has also decided not to have the phone companies retain that information for five years so the feds could get it without storing it, a workaround that had been considered.

This is an important privacy victory, made easier for everyone by the fact that the telephone metadata collection never seems to have yielded much useful intelligence anyway. In making it, the president has accepted the argument of the EPIC (the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which the NYT cites, and on whose advisory board I sit) and US District Judge Leon, who concluded that the program was probably unconstitutional.

(A note: In a previous post I overstated the opportunity for eavesdropping on US citizens due to the reported recording of all phone calls in a foreign country. If a call involves a US citizen, the spooks are not supposed to be listening without a warrant. Thanks to a careful reader for pointing that out; I have struck the offending sentence.)

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