Bloomberg by the Numbers: 215

Photograph by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

An attendee uses an Apple Inc. iPad to take a photograph of Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, as he speaks on screen during a virtual conversation at a featured session at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, on March 10, 2014.

The National Security Agency collects bulk phone-records data under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law.

President Barack Obama has proposed a plan for ending the government’s role in holding bulk phone records. Under his administration’s proposal, the information would remain at the telephone companies for 18 months and the NSA would be required to secure a court order to query data.

“Absent an emergency situation, the government can query the telephony metadata collected pursuant to the program only after a judge approves the use of specific numbers for such queries based on national security concerns,” the White House said in a fact sheet on March 27.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program yesterday that she supports “court approval of every query,” Bloomberg’s David Lerman reported.

The top two members of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican chairman Mike Rogers of Michigan and top-ranking Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, released a proposal last week that would also require phone companies to hold the data for 18 months, though their bill “wouldn’t require the government to get prior court approval when directing phone companies to search their records,” Lerman reported.

While there’s “no evidence” of abuses in the current program, “there was a perception to the public that they didn’t trust the program, and it’s important that not only do we have the programs that will protect us from terrorist attacks and protect our national security, but also that we have privacy and that we care very much about that,” Ruppersberger said March 25 on Bloomberg Television.

“I think there will be some sort of compromise” between Obama’s proposal and the Rogers-Ruppersberger bill, Michael Morell, a former Central Intelligence Agency deputy director, said yesterday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.

“They’re very, very close to each other,” Morell said.

Lawmakers have debated how to revamp spy programs since former government contractor Edward Snowden last year revealed details of how the NSA gathered metadata.

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