Under the president's still unveiled proposal, instead of having NSA in possession of these records, they would be left with the telecommunications companies who would only have to keep them for the standard amount of time they do now, 18 months. The NSA keeps such records for five years. Obtaining access to the records would require a subpoena from a judge.
Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said getting the proposal through Congress would be difficult, and she wants to see the wording of the president's proposal before supporting the proposal herself:
The senator said that she believed the end of government metadata collection, judicial review and new limits on how long records were held and how extensively they could be searched were all good suggestions. But, she said, she wanted to see precise language from the administration on how they would change the program.As my colleague Joan McCarter pointed out last week, what Obama has proposed has some good points:
“The president has said he would send us a bill, and I hold him to this word, because it’s very important that we receive bill language as to exactly what the administration intends,” Feinstein said.
This is an improvement, but is not without problems. The proposal would still allow the government to obtain "related records for callers up to two phone calls, or 'hops,' removed from the number that has come under suspicion." Those requests could come from multiple providers, if the related calls weren't made with the same provider as the initial caller. That means, as Marcy Wheeler points out, "ten or hundred of thousands of innocent people" will still be subject to the "full array of NSA's tradecraft."There's already a good reform measure introduced by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, called USA FREEDOM Act. The bill would end the bulk collection of Americans' records, put limits on Patriot Act provisions directed at Americans, require a court order before using information about Americans gathered during foreign intelligence operations, require communications providers to disclose the number of surveillance orders they receive, require the government to disclose how many people are subject to surveillance orders, make public the opinions from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court since July 2003 and establish a public advocate to advise FISC.