By Clarissa Toll |Staff Writer|
President Barack Obama has set out to reform the way Americans’ phone records are collected for the government’s use.
Obama intends to change the way these records are obtained, but is struggling with technical and political problems.
“Effective immediately, we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization, instead of the current three,” said Obama in his recent speech about National Security Association reforms.
Currently, the records make up a data system of numbers and call length times that can be accessed to run assumed terrorists’ numbers against.
General Counsel for the NSA says they use “reasonable and articulable suspicion” when determining what numbers to target.
The possibility of phone companies taking over the collections of their customers records and holding them for governmental searches is a possible solution.
This would require new technology that would allow for the phone companies to store the collected data and provide a way for the NSA to search the multiple databases.
The collection of these records is said to be a violation of America’s Fourth Amendment by some.
“If people think that their conversations are being monitored, people will inevitably feel less comfortable saying what they think, especially if what they think is not what the government wants them to think,” stated the American Civil Liberties Union on aclu.org.
“I understand why they’re doing it, but I don’t really like it. I definitely don’t think it should be altered. I don’t think it’s a total invasion of privacy because it’s just times, not content,” said student Kelly Pearson.
“I have instructed the intelligence community and the attorney general to use this transition period to develop options for a new approach that can match the capabilities and fill the gaps that the Section 215 program was designed to address, without the government holding this metadata itself,” added Obama.
Per the Patriot Act section 215, collections of phone records began after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Obama extended the act in 2011 and now seeks to reform its procedures before the re-authorization on Mar. 28.
The law that authorizes the collection of these bulk records is set to expire on June 15, according to The Washington Post.
Congress will determine if the NSA’s collections of phone records can continue, dividing many congressmen on the issue.
“The irony in this instance is that many of his critics come from his own party,” said Dr. Brian Janiskee, professor and chair of the political science department at CSUSB.
“The very act of bulk collection of private data is undermining Americans’ constitutional rights,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in his interview with The Washington Post.
Some representatives from the House are in the process of sponsoring legislation that could ban the collection of mass phone numbers.
“The bottom line is real reform cannot be done by presidential fiat,” said Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) in a statement he made urging for congressional action on the subject.