Obama made storage decision late Thursday night

President Obama made his final decision about how to reform to the controversial surveillance program that collects American's phone records late Thursday night, a White House official revealed Friday.

Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Obama didn't decide the government would not hold on to the data collected through the surveillance programs until Thursday night, and that he was still working on the reforms after midnight.


“Always the final decision and the toughest decisions are left to the end. So, for instance, the final decision on what to do about Section 215, that the government will not hold this data, that was made last night by the president," deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said in an interview with Bloomberg. "And he was still working on his speech even after that decision had been made. I spoke to him as late as midnight last night with final changes that he was putting on, refinements that he was putting on the speech."

Obama in a Friday speech at the Justice Department said he would now require intelligence agencies to obtain judicial approval before reviewing databases of information about telephone calls.

He also ordered members of his administration to figure out a way to end the federal collection of the phone records. While the president has said that he doesn't want the government to compile the records because of the risk of abuse, he also said that alternative proposals — having the data held by telephone companies or a third party — carried their own drawbacks and “pose difficult problems.”

It appears that those contradictions weighed heavily on Obama late into the night ahead of his highly anticipated speech.

Rhodes says that the administration hopes to bring Congress an alternative storage proposal by the end of March, when authorization for the program expires.

“We’d like to be at a point when reauthorization comes up that we can present to Congress, ‘Here’s the new approach we’d like to take,’ ” Rhodes said.

Earlier Friday, Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFormer Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock From learning on his feet to policy director MORE (R-Ohio) said he looked “forward to learning more about how the new procedure for accessing data will not put Americans at greater risk,” suggesting he was skeptical the administration would be able to muster a proposal acceptable to House Republicans.

“The House will review any legislative reforms proposed by the administration, but we will not erode the operational integrity of critical programs that have helped keep America safe,” Obama said.