President Obama is set to propose that the NSA stop collecting phone metadata. Instead, phone companies will keep the metadata -- as they always did -- and provide it to the NSA after the agency obtains an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
According to the New York Times (citing unnamed "senior administration officials"):
The N.S.A. now retains the phone data for five years. But the administration considered and rejected imposing a mandate on phone companies that they hold onto their customers’ calling records for a period longer than the 18 months that federal regulations already generally require — a burden that the companies had resisted and that was seen as a major obstacle to keeping the data in their hands. A senior administration official said that intelligence agencies had concluded that the impact of that change would be small because older data is less important.
Of course, the newer data's importance is also debatable. Obama and NSA officials have said that the metadata collection program thwarted terrorist attacks, but so far no evidence of this has been found. Obama's decision to stop the metadata collection indicates that he, too, isn't convinced as to the program's usefulness.
The proposal would be a change for the administration, which had up until now defended the metadata collection program even after his own review panel suggested ending it. Obama said in January that he was looking for ways to keep the NSA effective without collecting metadata. This appears to be his solution.