Deadline nears for NSA reform proposals

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Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday he is on track to meet a March 28 deadline for presenting specific reforms to the National Security Agency (NSA).

Earlier this year, President Obama set a deadline of a week from Friday for Holder and other intelligence officials to propose changes to the NSA’s bulk metadata program. Specifically, the president tasked them with determining where the metadata would be transferred and who would host it. 

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Holder did not say Wednesday whether a formal recommendation has already been submitted to the White House.

“That review is ongoing. We are in touch with the White House,” Holder said.

The attorney general made the comments at a press conference in Washington announcing a major settlement with Toyota.

“I've been in touch with the president. We'll meet the deadlines that the president has set. We have meetings that are scheduled,”  he said.

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Obama announced reforms to the NSA in a January speech at the Justice Department. He said he wants the agency’s bulk metadata program to be moved out of the government’s hands. 

Holder, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and others were then tasked with figuring out where it would go before the program comes up for reauthorization.

“I have instructed the intelligence community and 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,” Obama said in January. “They will report back to me with options for alternative approaches before the program comes up for reauthorization on March 28.”

Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Holder testified at a hearing in late January about the NSA’s metadata program. He promised the administration would conduct a “wide-ranging” review of it.

The program, he told the congressional panel, is “appropriate” and a “constitutional use of government power.”

While it’s unclear where the data might be transferred, some lawmakers have suggested moving it back to telephone companies.

Some companies, however, have warned that if they retain their own records, they could face liability issues, and would therefore demand liability protection.