Big Brother May Soon Stop Watching You

The White House and Congress are working on plans to end NSA's bulk collection of phone data.

Posted: 03/25/2014 01:54 PM EDT

The National Security Agency's bulk storage of telephone metadata has been a source of controversy and outrage since it was first revealed last summer by former government contractor Edward Snowden. President Obama announced Tuesday that his administration has developed a "workable" plan to end that storage and leave the records with phone companies.

“Overall, I’m confident that it allows us to do what is necessary in order to deal with the dangers of a nefarious attack and addresses the dangers that people have raised,” Obama said during remarks delivered at the end of a nuclear security summit in The Netherlands.

Counter-terrorism agencies would have to seek judicial approval to access the data for their investigations. NSA's current collection authority is set to expire in 18 months. The White House plans to overhaul the data collection also would require congressional approval.

But lawmakers on Capitol Hill are working on their own versions. The House Permanent Committee on Select Intelligence has proposed the FISA Transparency and Modernization Act of 2014, which co-sponsors say would safeguard Americans' privacy while still allowing intelligence agencies to protect them against terrorist attacks. It ends NSA's bulk collection of phone records and codifies a ban on bulk collection of emails and Internet metadata and of firearm sales, medical records, tax returns and other "sensitive personal records."

"This bill puts safeguards in place to protect how certain data is obtained by the NSA while continuing to minimize threats to our national  security," said Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Alabama), who sits on the committee and co-sponsored the measure. "The bill strikes a balance between protecting the NSA's ability to collect critical data and increasing the transparency of our intelligence programs."

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(Photo: Toussaint Kluiters-Pool/Getty Images)

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