Obama administration wants to hold onto NSA phone data for longer, citing lawsuits

Eric Pfeiffer
Yahoo News

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An aerial photo of National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. (Reuters)

The Obama administration has asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to give it more time to hold onto phone data captured by the National Security Agency.

In a new report, the Wall Street Journal says the request was filed by the Justice Department, citing lawsuits being filed against the administration’s data collection program from groups including the American Civil Liberties Union.

The request came on the same day that Slashgear reported on a leak of possible administration reforms to the NSA program. Some of the ideas include scrapping the data collection program altogether or asking private telephone companies to collect and house the raw data themselves. However, the private companies are reportedly reluctant to take on the data collection burden out of fears it would open them up to lawsuits similar to those being filed against the government.

Under current law, the government is required to destroy data that has been captured by the NSA or other agencies after five years. However, the Justice Department said it needs access to data that’s currently set to expire in order to properly address concerns raised in lawsuits.

Earlier this month, the ACLU argued against claims that the NSA program has actually stopped or reduced any potential terrorist threats. In addition, is has argued that potential reforms outlined by President Barack Obama do not go far enough.

Some of Obama’s potential reform ideas have centered on having nongovernmental agencies collect the bulk of raw data but to allow government agencies access to certain data on a case-by-case basis. Another potential change would establish a public advocate that would be present for all FISA requests to provide a counterargument against the government’s request for data collection.

Proponents of the NSA’s data collection program have spoken out against some Obama's reform ideas, including one that would turn over data collection responsibilities to another government agency, such as the FBI.

The White House has set a March 28 deadline for potential reforms but the administration has chosen to not comment on any of the potential reforms.