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Obama Calls for End of Massive NSA Phone Data Collection

U.S. President Barack Obama is calling for an end to the National Security Agency's massive collection and storage of data about Americans' phone calls.

Under a plan unveiled Tuesday, the government would have to obtain permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain data from phone companies on calls connected to suspected terrorists.

The phone companies would not be required to maintain the phone call records for any longer than they do now. But they would have to provide the NSA with updated information if any new phone calls were made to or from specific numbers linked to national security investigations.

At a news conference in the Netherlands, Mr. Obama said he is confident the plan would still give the government sufficient authority to look at the information it needs to thwart a new terrorist attack against the U.S., while also limiting concerns that the data collection violates the civil liberties of individuals.

"I'm confident that it allows us to do what is necessary in order to deal with the dangers of a terrorist attack, but does so in a way that addresses some of the concerns that people had raised."

Mr. Obama launched a review of the NSA's phone surveillance program after former national security contractor Edward Snowden last year leaked thousands of documents to journalists about clandestine U.S. surveillance programs, the extent of which surprised many people around the world. Mr. Obama ordered his administration to craft a new policy on the phone data collection by this Friday, when the current authorization for the program expires.

Among a host of revelations, the NSA documents showed that the U.S. had tapped the communications of foreign allies, including the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mr. Obama said that with the revelations about the U.S. surveillance, his country has to regain the trust of foreign governments and people across the globe.

"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. And that's not going to happen overnight because I think that there's a tendency to be skeptical of government and to be skeptical in particular of U.S. intelligence services."

Legislation similar to Mr. Obama's proposal on phone data collection will be introduced Tuesday in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, crafted by the Republican chairman and ranking Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee, also bars the NSA from the bulk collection of phone records, but does not require the government to obtain a court order before it asks phone companies for the data.

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