Updated at 11:48 AM eastern time
Today, the world will discover how President Barack Obama’s views on privacy have evolved after five years in the White House.
In a much anticipated speech at 11 A.M. eastern, Obama will announce changes to the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices. Specifically, he’s expected to reveal reforms to the controversial NSA program that collects a massive amount of telephone call data on Americans and foreigners.
The New York Times, the Washington Post, and Reuters all suggest that Obama will require intelligence agencies to seek judicial approval before querying the NSA database that contains a vast trove of telephony metadata. Obama is also expected to increase safeguards for foreigners, particularly foreign leaders, and to propose a new public advocate who would represent privacy interests before the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
A panel of presidential advisers who reviewed the NSA’s surveillance practices had recommended that the government should keep that data in private hands. Obama is expected to ask Attorney General Eric Holder and the intelligence community to investigate how the NSA might preserve the program without holding the metadata and report back to him prior to the program’s reauthorization date of March 28. But the Reuters report goes further, suggesting Obama will announce his steadfast decision that the government should not hold the bulk of telephone metadata. (Update: In his speech, Obama just announced the government will not hold the metadata in the revised version of the NSA program. Learn about that and other key takeaways here.)
It’s unclear who would be responsible for holding the data when the government relinquishes control of the database to a third party. The presidential panel had suggested that the telcos might be responsible for maintaining the data for the government.
Obama’s plans to reform to the government’s surveillance practices were prompted by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked hundreds of thousands of documents exposing the scope and secrecy of the agency’s surveillance activities. The NSA began compiling its massive database of phone data following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and placed the program under court supervision in 2006.