Obama on NSA Spying Program: Someone Else, Not Gov't, Will Keep Your Private Info

Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the National Security Agency from the Justice Department in Washington January 17, 2014. |

President Barack Obama in a Friday speech addressing his reform proposals for controversial National Security Agency spying programs, announced a plan to let a third party or the phone companies themselves keep metadata on American phone records. Privacy advocates criticized his proposals for not going far enough in protecting privacy.

Under his proposal, a third party, the phone companies themselves or some other entity would keep data on when and where phone calls are placed and to whom the calls are placed. (The content of phone calls is not being collected, nor would be collected under his announced reforms.) In order to look at the data, authorities would need a court order.

There will be a 60-day review used to determine how the phone data will be collected and archived in the future.

"During the review process, some suggested that we may also be able to preserve the capabilities we need through a combination of existing authorities, better information sharing, and recent technological advances. But more work needs to be done to determine exactly how this system might work," Obama said.

The data collection itself should not end, Obama argued, because it is a necessary component of the fight against terrorists.

The 9/11 attacks may have been thwarted, Obama explained, if U.S. intelligence had that data at the time.

"One of the 9/11 hijackers — Khalid al-Mihdhar — made a phone call from San Diego to a known al Qaeda safe-house in Yemen. NSA saw that call, but it could not see that the call was coming from an individual already in the United States," he said.

founder of the protest group Code Pink Medea Benjamin
The founder of the protest group Code Pink Medea Benjamin wears large sunglasses as she protests against U.S. President Barack Obama and the NSA before his arrival at the Department of Justice in Washington, January 17, 2014. |

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been one of the most outspoken critics of the NSA phone data collection program. In a Friday statement he argued that the proposal keeps what he views as the main problem with the program in place. Mass amounts of phone data, or "metadata," should not be collected to begin with, Paul believes, because the government should have an individual search warrant, and probable cause, for each person it collects data.

"While I am encouraged the President is addressing the NSA spying program because of pressure from Congress and the American people, I am disappointed in the details," Paul said. "The Fourth Amendment requires an individualized warrant based on probable cause before the government can search phone records and e-mails. President Obama's announced solution to the NSA spying controversy is the same unconstitutional program with a new configuration.

"I intend to continue the fight to restore Americans' rights through my Fourth Amendment Restoration Act and my legal challenge against the NSA. The American people should not expect the fox to guard the hen house."

Paul also mocked Obama's plan on his Facebook page. He posted an image of the Bill of Rights titled "Obama's NSA Reform" with the Fourth Amendment blocked out. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures without a search warrant.

"In case you missed it: here's the cliff notes version of President Obama's NSA reforms," Paul wrote with the image.

Obama's NSA Reform
Image mocking "Obama's NSA Reform" posted by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to his Facebook page. |

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