Obama has four options for NSA program

Lawyers have given the White House four options for reforming the National Security Agency (NSA) program that collects records on millions of Americans’ phone calls, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The paper reports that one of the options from the Justice Department and top intelligence leaders would end the contested program entirely. The other three would relocate the data, but none have gained universal backing.


President Obama called for the options in a speech last month to address some of the public concern about the program, which was one of the most controversial surveillance efforts revealed in documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The administration and some lawmakers have said that the program has been necessary to track potential terrorists, falls within the confines of the law and protects people’s right to privacy. Civil liberties proponents have disagreed.

The program, authorized under a portion of the Patriot Act, collects information about the numbers people dial, their length of calls and how often they make calls, but not content of the calls themselves.

Obama last month called for an alternative that “preserves the capabilities we need” but transfers the phone data out of government hands.

One option presented to the White House would have private phone companies keep the phone records and allow the government to search them.

Privacy advocates have previously said that would not quell their concerns about the program, and phone companies have objected to the notion that they would have to comply with government orders.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the head of the House Intelligence Committee, said this week that he did not think a proposal like that could pass through Congress. 

Other suggestions for Obama to consider are having another government agency like the FBI hold the data, or have some outside third party hold onto it.

The president has said he wanted to develop reforms to the program by March 28, when it comes up for judicial reauthorization.