WASHINGTON -- The National Security Agency would lose its authority to collect and hold years' worth of telephone calling records but gain access to cellphone information it currently lacks under an Obama administration proposal aimed at quieting controversy over the spy agency’s data archive.
The new proposal would end the NSA’s practice of holding the massive amounts of calling data. Administration officials hope that would assuage public concerns that an intelligence agency had access to information that could reveal deeply private information. Though the NSA does not obtain the contents of communications under the program, the ability to map a person’s communications with times, dates and numbers called can provide a window into someone's activities and connections.
Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA's director, who is retiring, has been lobbying members of Congress in favor of the compromise. He believes it is the best outcome the NSA could hope for with the program, the official said. The NSA's collection authority currently will expire in 18 months unless Congress reauthorizes the program.