STATEMENT: Kevin Bankston of OTI on President’s Plan to End NSA Bulk Collection of Telephone Records

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 WASHINGTON, DC – This morning, the White House officially its plan to introduce legislation that would end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records. The following statement responding to the President's speech can be attributed to Kevin Bankston, Policy Director of New America's Open Technology Institute:
“We are incredibly pleased that the President has recognized that allowing the NSA to collect and store every American’s phone records is not actually necessary to protect national security.  It is also a relief that the Administration proposal would not require phone companies to store any records that they don’t already store, and that it would require an individualized court order before the NSA could obtain any specific records.  This represents an enormous step in the debate over how much power the NSA should have to intrude into our lives, and is a strong repudiation of the agency’s “collect it all” philosophy.  However, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have made clear, the President doesn’t need Congress’ permission to end the program.  He can do that now, today, on his own authority—and he should.”
“Although this proposal represents a landmark shift in the NSA debate, by only addressing the issue of bulk collection of telephone records under the PATRIOT Act, it focuses on only one symptom of the NSA’s overreach rather than promising a cure for the broader problem of bulk data collection.  Especially considering that the NSA has previously engaged in bulk Internet data collection under other laws, any proposal to address the problem of bulk data collection is fatally incomplete if it doesn’t prohibit the bulk collection of any kind of record under any of the NSA’s various legal authorities.”
“The USA FREEDOM Act, surveillance reform legislation that has been introduced in both House and Senate and enjoys wide bipartisan support, fully addresses the bulk data collection issue while also reforming several other aspects of the NSA’s various programs and introducing greater transparency and accountability into the government’s surveillance activities.  Although we appreciate the President’s efforts and look forward to working with the White House to end the bulk collection of telephone records, the time has passed for half-measures that only address a small sliver of the NSA problem, and the time has come for leaders in Congress to stop waiting to see what the President will do and instead move forward with the USA FREEDOM Act.”

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