The administration is considering four potential options for its massive, bulk collection of U.S. citizens cellphone data, the Wall Street Journal reports. One option would be to discontinue dragnet data collection, and the other three are variations of running it through the telephone companies, and having them store the data.
None of the three options for relocating the data have gained universal favor. But failure to agree on one of them would leave only the option of abolishing the program, which would be a setback for intelligence agencies and other backers of the surveillance effort. Of the three options for relocating the data, two of them—with phone companies or another government agency—appear most technically possible. [...]The companies are not keen on this idea, worried about the liability, and the inevitable outside demands for the data from all levels of law enforcement to lawyers in divorce cases. They would require extensive protections in any legislation. House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers (R-MI) says he doesn't have support in committee to pass this option. Other possibilities are other federal agencies like the FBI holding the data (because that would lessen civil liberty concerns?) or even the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court holding it.
Obama administration officials have sought to preserve the collection of phone records in a way that raises fewer concerns about privacy.
One way of doing that would have the phone companies retain the data, officials said. The NSA would then tell the companies when it needs searches of call records concerning specific phone numbers the agency believes are connected to terrorism. The companies would provide the results to the NSA.
Under this model, the NSA would only collect the data that comes in response to the search, rather than millions of unrelated American phone records.
Apparently the option of reforming our intelligence agencies to actually work effectively without turning every American into a potential terrorism suspect is not a viable one as far as the administration and its advisors are concerned.