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Obama to propose spying reforms to Congress


The administration of US President Barack Obama is set to unveil a legislative proposal that would change the way Washington spies on Americans’ phone calls.

If passed by US Congress, the proposed legislation would require Americans’ phone records to be kept by private phone companies and the National Security Agency would need permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order, in order to obtain records, the New York Times reported.

In a much-anticipated speech at the Department of Justice on January 17, Obama promised to “end the [bulk phone record collection] program as it currently exists.”

Obama’s promise came after American whistleblower Edward Snowden blew the lid off the NSA’s once-secret phone data collection program as part of a series of revelations that exposed the scope and scale of Washington’s spying activities across the globe.

Obama gave the intelligence community and Justice Department until March 28, when the current court order authorizing the phone records collection program expires, to come up with a plan that would introduce reforms to the way Americans’ phone records are gathered and stored.

Currently, the NSA retains phone records for five years. Initially, the Obama administration proposed that phone companies must retain records for a period longer than 18 months but later rejected imposing a mandate after it faced complaints from the companies that saw the mandate as a major obstacle to keep the data in their hands.

Obama’s new proposal requires phone companies to swiftly provide phone records in a technologically compatible data format. The companies also have to hand over data about new calls placed or received after the order requiring them to provide records is received.

Meanwhile, critics say the proposed reforms do not address some major issues regarding the NSA’s spying programs, like the collection of data related to online communications of people around the world.

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