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President Barack Obama signs the Budget Control Act of 2011.

President Obama will propose that the NSA end its bulk collection of phone data in a legislative proposal to be unveiled soon. The proposal would require phone companies to maintain data for 18 months—which is standard practice—rather than the five years the NSA has been maintaining records for. The phone companies were adamantly opposed to having to take on that burden of keeping records for five years.
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.
This is an improvement, but is not without problems. The proposal would still allow the government to obtain "related records for callers up to two phone calls, or 'hops,' removed from the number that has come under suspicion." Those requests could come from multiple providers, if the related calls weren't made with the same provider as the initial caller. That means, as Marcy Wheeler points out, "ten or hundred of thousands of innocent people" will still be subject to the "full array of NSA's tradecraft."

More analysis below the fold.

A big key to the problem is what Marcy calls the "pizza joint review": What happens when the number that is linking all of these disparate callers is a pizza joint, and every customer is subject to having their data collected just because they frequent that restaurant? It's happened before.

So who, under this new system, will do the pizza joint analysis?

If the phone companies do it […], it will mean even more intensive data mining of customer data while it remains in their hands.

If the NSA does it, it means a lot more totally innocent people will have their data turned over to NSA to do as they wish.

This is a better solution than the status quo, but it isn't an answer to all the privacy concerns the two-hop standard allows, nor does it answer the questions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as essentially a rubber stamp. Thus far, how the Obama proposal will address FISC issues isn't clear, though he has endorsed the idea of a public advocate arguing against the NSA in the FISC, one of the recommendations of his NSA review board.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 10:10 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (26+ / 0-)

    "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

    by Joan McCarter on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 10:10:31 AM PDT

  •  So the take home message here . .. . (9+ / 0-)
    Obama to call for ending bulk collection of phone data by government
    is the outsourcing of these tasks to non-government (for profit, of course!) entities.

    Yay!!! I knew he'd come around eventually, what's the term "evolve" ?

  •  It's something but not what we ultimately need (7+ / 0-)

    The NSA is out of control this is just a band-aid.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 10:33:29 AM PDT

  •  He'll need Congress to do something (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and they actually might.

    Reps Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger have apparently agreed on ending bulk data collection. Details will matter, and especially if Boehner will allow a vote.


    •  Why is that? (0+ / 0-)

      The NSA is an Executive Branch office. The Legislature is not supposed to have any say in its operations. Obama seems to have forgotten that, for some reason . . .

      "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

      by bryduck on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 11:46:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'd actually prefer if Congress acted (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Chas 981, doroma

        I mean, you may be right, he can do it on his own, but I think a Congressional bill would codify the changes, making it more difficult for a future president to act unilaterally.  

      •  bryduck, congress, the executive and the FISA (0+ / 0-)

        courts have NSA oversight.

        •  Hmm; it sounds squishier than you might think. (0+ / 0-)

          The NSA admits to oversight itself, but out of the many, many bodies it cites there, only two are from the Legislature (one House each) and one from the Courts, but the language only says that that body "help[s] ensure" the NSA adheres to the law. I guess that may simply be legalese, and the oversight is binding . . .
          I don't doubt you all, but I also wouldn't be surprised to find out that the non-Executive bodies are advisory only. In any case, that blurb does not say that the NSA can be regulated by Congress or the Courts, in the sense that those external bodies can alter its operations or powers (unless they violate existing laws and regs.)

          "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

          by bryduck on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 03:45:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Does the President take orders from (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Don midwest, bryduck

    the Intelligence Community?

    Legislation tends to take too long and include horror.
    The President might better roll all the heads out who think they're above the law and are too blind foolish to see the ruin of our freedom, privacy, and a misappropriation of duty, power and its duplicitous funding.

    decent wages don't eliminate jobs. Republicans eliminate jobs; and workers, and prospects, and then excuse it all and call for more austerity. there is no end to their ignorant, arrogant avarice. only political dinosaurs support their treachery.

    by renzo capetti on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 11:17:19 AM PDT

  •  Better late than never (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pluto, onionjim, Choco8, mosesfreeman, hooper

    I still think Obama is a captive of the National Security Deep State.

    "If Wall Street paid a tax on every “game” they run, we would get enough revenue to run the government on." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 11:27:51 AM PDT

  •  What happened to the Leahy/Sensenbrenner (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, Lady Libertine, Lefty Coaster


    I thought that was pretty reasonable.  Is it dead?

    "Turns out I'm really good at killing people." - President Obama

    by jrooth on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 11:28:17 AM PDT

  •  Against it (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    liberalguy, Jarrayy, Lefty Coaster

    Headline should read, "Obama proposes requiring combination companies to keep your data for 1 1/2 years," subtitled, "Lack of accountability for or improved restrictions upon NSA spying."

    Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

    by Simplify on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 11:29:22 AM PDT

  •  Maybe I'm missing something (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bryduck, Lefty Coaster

    but is there a reason why the Commander in Chief can't simply order a halt to bulk metadata collection?

    •  He doesn't control the Deep State (5+ / 0-)

      They control him.

      (Hmmm, sounds sort of like one of those old "In Soviet Russia" jokes, but is not funny.)

      •  Not your Turkish granddaddy's deep state (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Ours is passive-aggressive, litigious and in the application of force almost petty.  Where it might cover up the brutality shown by law enforcement to the most powerless, it depends on innuendo, scandal, electoral corruption, and the like for its far more capable enemies.  

        So what does the President fear so much that he want use his constitutional power to do essentially what he's drafting his slightly less elite companions in Congress to do?

    •  I suppose he could (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rduran, joe from Lowell, SuzieQ4624

      But instead of taking the "repeal and replace" angle that Republicans have taken towards Obamacare, the president is saying that these might not be the best methods, but there is a valid goal in mind, so he wants a replacement program in place before he repeals anything.

    •  There would be no chance of it passing Congress. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SuzieQ4624, hooper, freakofsociety

      This is the same argument people raised in 2010 about DADT repeal. "Why doesn't he just do it by executive order?"

      There are two big reasons: first, it's better to have the law changed because, someday, there is going to be another President.

      And if the problem is dealt with by executive action, it makes it much less likely that Congress will act. The supporters will have less of a motive, because the problem will be addressed at least for now, while the opponents will get their backs up and be able to argue not about the policy, but about the "lawless, imperial President."

      Art is the handmaid of human good.

      by joe from Lowell on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 12:49:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  terrorism (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    A country that has been super terror conscious must expect the government to overreach for security.  Bush's fear mongering has had lasting effects, and a gradual elimination of eavesdropping is the best we can expect.
    This brings up another point.  Had McCain been our president for the last 5+ years, and there was no terrorist attack, all we'd be hearing is that only Rs can keep us safe.  Has anyone heard any D proudly state only Ds could have caught Bin Laden, and still have kept al Qaeda away.

    Actions speak louder than petitions.

    by melvynny on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 11:33:42 AM PDT

  •  Didn't he also promise to close (0+ / 0-)

    Guantanamo Bay? Or did he promise a study for a recommendation of a study? Or something.

    Health insurance is not health care.

    by Jarrayy on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 11:34:20 AM PDT

    •  Remind me (10+ / 0-)

      How he's supposed to close it without Congress allowing removal or trial?

      by DAISHI on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 11:41:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Civics FAIL is a big part of this thread. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dougymi, freakofsociety, doroma

        Look at all of the comments asking why he's going to Congress to change the law.

        Art is the handmaid of human good.

        by joe from Lowell on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 12:46:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Please cite the federal statute which authorizes (0+ / 0-)

          bulk collection of domestic phone calls. While the cite of a specific statute won't mitigate the rudeness of dismissing other kossaks with the "civic fail" sneer, it might at least explain your bad manners on the issue.

          Enough fossil fuel remains on Earth to warm it 6 degrees C by 2100 AD if it is all used. A +6 C planet will only sustain half a billion humans. Human population will rise to 9 billion by 2050. Any questions?

          by davidincleveland on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 01:19:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Accurate regarding Guantanamo, though. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            freakofsociety, tarkangi, doroma

            Obama would love to close it and continues to try.  So far he's lost on this one, not refused.

          •  The USA PATRIOT ACT. (0+ / 0-)

            That was easy.

            Art is the handmaid of human good.

            by joe from Lowell on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 06:57:42 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  This is easier, and a teachable moment for all (0+ / 0-)

              Senator Leahy's response to the underlying obfuscation inherent in your original comment:

              In the meantime, the President could end bulk collection once and for all on Friday by not seeking reauthorization of this program

              Your response to my comment was technically correct. It also neatly sidestepped both the intent of your original comment and the underlying focus of my reply to that comment.

              The lesson I derive from our exchange? Eschew both courtesy and subtlety when dealing with roxxers when they play defense.

              Enough fossil fuel remains on Earth to warm it 6 degrees C by 2100 AD if it is all used. A +6 C planet will only sustain half a billion humans. Human population will rise to 9 billion by 2050. Any questions?

              by davidincleveland on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 09:59:44 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I answered the question you asked. (0+ / 0-)

                If the correct answer to your question is "sidestepping" the issue, then the sidestepping comes from the question.

                Maybe you should make a habit of actually sticking your neck out enough to argue your point, so it's possible to understand what it is. I still can't even tell what "the obfuscation" in my answer is supposed to be.

                It's "obfuscation" to point out that he's going to Congress because he thinks that amending the Patriot Act is the right way to deal with the problem?

                OK, tell me: are all of the comments everyone on Daily Kos has written about the need to change the Patriot Act also obfuscation? Or is this one of those all-too-common situations in which Obama's critics describe a certain course of action in glowing terms right up until Barack Obama does it, at which point it becomes some underhanded trick?

                Art is the handmaid of human good.

                by joe from Lowell on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 10:07:20 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Not only are your first three sentences correct, (0+ / 0-)
                  I answered the question you asked. If the correct answer to your question is "sidestepping" the issue, then the sidestepping comes from the question. Maybe you should make a habit of actually sticking your neck out enough to argue your point, so it's possible to understand what it is.

                  [Emphases added by me to illustrate joe from Lowell's accurate zings]
                  they are the reason for my reply; I gave you the space to sidestep. The rest of your comment is obfuscation-by-strawman.

                  You want plain speaking about my point? Here it is: I believe the quote below is one every member of this 'reality-based' blog should learn and pay heed to.
                  "The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."

                  "Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star", 149
                  May 7, 1918

                  On a site dedicated to "electing more and better Democrats" it saddens me to have to resort to the words of a Republican president, albeit one to the left of our current Democratic president.

                  Enough fossil fuel remains on Earth to warm it 6 degrees C by 2100 AD if it is all used. A +6 C planet will only sustain half a billion humans. Human population will rise to 9 billion by 2050. Any questions?

                  by davidincleveland on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 11:12:25 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  Two degrees of separation goes pretty far (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    So a suspicious person has cable. They dial 1-855-CABLECO for service.  Now, every customer who dials that same CABLECO number is two degrees away and fair game for the NSA.  Not to mention anyone who calls for take-out from the same restaurant, reserves tickets from the same travel agency or airline, hires the same sewer-rooter, etc.

    It casts a wide net that brings very very much innocent hay into the stack.

  •  WTF?!? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The NSA works for the Executive Branch.

    All he has to do is get on the phone and tell the spooks to stop....

    This space for rent -- Cheap!

    by jds1978 on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 11:38:23 AM PDT

    •  And they're gonna obey...why? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mosesfreeman, freakofsociety

      If it weren't for Snowden, we wouldn't know a quarter of what's come to light about the NSA's overreaching.

      As long as spies get to stay in the dark -- w/out even Congressional oversight -- they will do as they please. John Edgar "Mary" Hoover proved that decades ago, when he was spying on presidents and congresscritters.

      English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

      by Youffraita on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 11:45:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I am Inpressed with the Idea, but (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    with a congress that can't agree about which end the ass is on in a human being, Obama is shirking his duty. He has the authority as commanded in chief to shut it down with an executive order.

    •  He just wants to appear to be "doing something". (2+ / 0-)

      He doesn't intend to curtail the NSA any more than he supported the public option in health-care reform or now demands renewal of benefits for the long-term unemployed. This is nothing but window-dressing, & it does nothing to solve the problem.

      •  But, but, but... (0+ / 0-)

        He "welcomed" an open debate on murdering people and everyone and everything within the blast radius with remote control flying bombs in far off lands and...oh...yeah.

        The fake to the left followed by the hard right.

        The only reason the 1% are rich is because the 99% agree they are.

        by GreatLakeSailor on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 01:37:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I do think the data needs to be preserved (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Witgren, joe from Lowell, doroma

    In some fashion.

    I don't think the value of it necessarily involves data mining to prevent terrorist attacks.  I think the main value is providing data to sift through after the fact if there is a terrorist event, sort of like a paper trail for electronic voting machines.

    •  Indeed (3+ / 0-)

      There is, actually, a compelling reason why collecting and storing such data for a period of time could be valid, and you've pretty much hit the big one: as evidence after the fact.  

      I have my doubts that collecting all that data does much to prevent attacks, but being able to sift communications of suspects after a terrorist event could be crucial not only in a conviction (if the suspects are alive), but also in reconstructing how they orchestrated the attack and also perhaps in uncovering other conspirators or plans in the works.

      So, there is a value to this, but it's a fair question as to how long to keep it.  18 months seems like plenty to me.

      •  Or, alternatively (4+ / 0-)

        the data could be used against political activists and environmentalists who are in the way of Big Profit.

        The notion that only terrorists and bad actors will be the people potentially neutralized by the abuse of what should be private communications is absurd and historically ignorant.

        It's amazing - people act like the words in the 4th Amendment just don't mean anything anymore.

        •  That could be true of a lot of things. (4+ / 0-)

          Enrollment records in government programs could be used to target political opponents, too.  Maybe we shouldn't keep that data -- everyone has to sign up every time they want to use a program, and re-enroll every time they use a service.  Two hours later, the information's deleted.  Or maybe two minutes.  How long is too long?  Two seconds?

          Right now, the government can subpoena a suspect's credit card record to gather evidence of a suspect's movements or whether they purchased items used in the commission of a crime.  Are you suggesting that credit card companies should expunge their records immediately after payment as well?  After all, someone could check your data to see if you made a donation to a cause that could mark you as a political opponent or an environmental activist.

        •  So could Census data. So could disorderly conduct. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Witgren, hooper, freakofsociety

          Also, vaguely waiving your had in the direction of the Fourth Amendment in a snooty manner isn't an argument.

          Art is the handmaid of human good.

          by joe from Lowell on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 12:45:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Or the recordings of security cameras in Boston. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hooper, freakofsociety

      Nobody was watching all of those security cameras in the vicinity of the finish line of the Boston Marathon, hoping to spot a terrorist.

      But after the fact, they went through the recordings to find the bags, and look at who left the bags, and then look to see if they could find the guys who left the bags talking to anyone else.

      Art is the handmaid of human good.

      by joe from Lowell on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 12:43:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Outshopping the security state -- look for big (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    fees to the phone companies for all this.

    You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

    by Cartoon Peril on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 11:46:50 AM PDT

  •  But they can still collect the calls themselves (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    onionjim, davidincleveland

    Metadata is the stuff they admit to, the stuff that carriers keep anyway.  But all the telephone metadata in the world will fit into one rack.

    Bluffdale, on the other hand, has over 700,000 square feet of data center space.  That's what you want when you are collecting and storing wiretaps on EVERY call from almost EVERY phone. They have, from project GALE, multi-language speaker-independent speech-to-text translation. So they hoover up all of our phone calls (at least on cooperating networks; some local calls are missed), file the digital voice stream, translate to text, and use the text to run a search engine.  Who spoke the words "swordfish" and "Florida Keys" last week?  They can do that search and play back the calls.  This hyper-intrusive bulk monitoring is not apparently being covered, since they don't openly admit to it.  But nod wink everyone who knows the score knows about it.

  •  Here's the problem (8+ / 0-)

    WHo believes him? Who believes they really will stop?  They've lost my trust and I'll be a tinfoil hat wearing freak for the rest of my days.

    Oh yeah, we'll stop collecting bulk data WINK WINK. Go ahead and make those calls you were holding off on...

    "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but us can free our minds." - Bob Marley

    by nightsweat on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 11:53:09 AM PDT

  •  Calls are supposed to be private. (5+ / 0-)

    In the basic founding philosophy of this country, the right to privacy is clear. If someone can't figure out what unwarranted search and seizure means its back to school, buddy. The only time the NSA or whatever should get call data of any kind, is with a warrant. Period.

    By claiming "national security" as an excuse for ignoring the law, in effect says that these spying agencies are at war with the American public.

    And since I pay into the system, I call for accountability and law.

    A true craftsman will meticulously construct the apparatus of his own demise.

    by onionjim on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 12:03:52 PM PDT

  •  This is good, they can already get actual content (0+ / 0-)

    from phone companies anyway with a court order, so i fail to see how this hurts privacy.

  •  This from the Guardian this morning: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Obama administration is to set out how it proposes to end the mass collection of Americans' phone call data this week, as legislators in the House of Representatives prepare to unveil a bill that would significantly curtail the practice but lower the legal standards for the collection of such information.
    That last part bears repeating:
    but lower the legal standards for the collection of such information.


    A separate proposal, to be published on Tuesday by the leaders of the House intelligence committee, would not necessarily require a judge's prior approval to access phone or email data.

    So another fake to the left, then a hard right toward fascism.  No thank you.  I'll stick with the 'probable cause' thingy in our Constitution.

    The only reason the 1% are rich is because the 99% agree they are.

    by GreatLakeSailor on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 01:52:31 PM PDT

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