President Obama asked White House lawyers last month to come up with ways to reform the National Security Administration's phone-surveillance program and they have delivered four options, insiders tell the Wall Street Journal. One option—and probably the least likely to be adopted—is scrapping the program altogether, while the other three involve taking the vast amount of phone data currently being gathered out of the NSA's hands.
Sources say the Director of National Intelligence and the Justice Department have presented Obama with the following options for shifting the phone data:
- Having phone companies retain the data. Under this option, the NSA would contact phone companies when it needed specific searches of phone records. Telecommunications firms, however, are firmly opposed to this plan.
- Having another government agency retain the data. The FBI has been spoken of as a possibility for this role, though the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is also being considered.
- Having a non-government, non-phone company agency retain the data. This option is also seen as unlikely. Privacy groups say any such agency would become a mere extension of the NSA. Obama said last month that any such third party would be carrying out "what is essentially a government function with more expense, more legal ambiguity, and a doubtful impact on public confidence that their privacy is being protected," the Wire notes.