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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is preparing to unveil a legislative proposal for a far-reaching overhaul of the National Security Agency’s once-secret bulk phone records program in a way that — if approved by Congress — would end the aspect that has most alarmed privacy advocates since its existence was leaked last year, according to senior administration officials.
Under the proposal, they said, the N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The bulk records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order. ...
Before you start celebrating any revival of the 4th Amendment, please remember that the law is now written to require the phone company to keep mass records of all of our calls for 18 month, instead of the current five years the N.S.A. currently does. Surprise!
The new type of surveillance court orders envisioned by the administration would require phone companies to swiftly provide records in a technologically compatible data format, including making available, on a continuing basis, data about any new calls placed or received after the order is received, the officials said.
The exceptions also would allow the government to quickly access two additional links or "hops" away from the suspected number.
Massive bulk domestic spying by the phone companies with 18 month records may be preferable to massive bulk domestic spying by just the N.S.A. alone for 5 years. I need to think about this more. The whole situation falls so short of what used to be considered our 4th Amendment Constitution Rights, that I have not been able to recalibrate my bearings sufficiently to comment intelligently on this yet.