What a difference nine months has made.
The same White House and members of Congress that defended the National Security Agency’s secret bulk collection of telephone data last summer as critical to ferreting out terrorist attacks before they happen on Tuesday effusively praised proposals by President Barack Obama that would essentially end the program.
Acknowledging outcries from privacy advocates over the depth and scope of the NSA program, the administration is expected to propose this week that the NSA halt its daily collection of millions of telephone records and end its storage of the information, known as metadata, for as long as five years.
Instead, the White House will propose that the phone companies hold onto the records for 18 months, about what they do now for administrative purposes. The NSA would be able to get records for specific information only with permission from a judge through a court order.
“I am confident that it allows us to do what is necessary in order to deal with the dangers from the terrorist attack, but does so in a way that addresses some of the concerns that people raised,” Obama said Tuesday of the proposal at a news conference in The Hague.
“I recognize that because of these revelations, that there’s a process that’s taking place where we have to win back the trust not just of governments, but more importantly, of ordinary citizens,” he said. “And that’s not going to happen overnight, because there’s a tendency to be skeptical of government and to be skeptical in particular of U.S. intelligence services.”