President Obama outlined his plan Thursday to end the National Security Agency's controversial practice of collecting records on millions of U.S. phone calls.
But the program will continue as it is currently structured until Congress can pass the president's proposal — or something similar.
Under Obama's plan, the vast database of phone records would stay in the hands of the phone companies. To access data on a particular target, the NSA would have to first obtain an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The NSA would be able to bypass the court process for an "emergency situation."
Those orders would force the phone companies to provide data, such as incoming and outgoing phone numbers and call times, on an ongoing basis. The phone companies would also have to provide technical assistance to ensure the government can easily mine though the records. A senior administration official said the phone companies would likely receive money to cover their compliance expenses, although the details haven't been worked out yet.
The phone companies would oppose any new data retention mandate, but Obama's plan would not force them to hold the data longer than they already do under federal rules.