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Officials: Obama likely to OK phone record changes

By Kimberly Dozier

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 15 2014 6:51 a.m. MST

Many privacy advocates support requiring Congress to codify any changes to Section 215, arguing that legislation is the only way to ensure they last beyond Obama's presidency. And two phone executives said the cellular industry has told the government it would only accept changes to its role in the programs if they were legally required to do so.

The executives spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the private discussions with the government. The U.S. officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the White House review by name.

Section 215 has been one of the most controversial aspects of the Patriot Act, which passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and increased the government's surveillance powers. Congress reauthorized the law in 2011.

The section became known as the "library records provision" because it allowed the government to seize a wide range of documents, including library records. It requires the government to show that there are "reasonable grounds to believe" that the records are relevant to an investigation intended to "protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."

Last month, a federal judge declared the program is probably unconstitutional and said there is little evidence it had thwarted any terror plot. The Justice Department has staunchly defended Section 215, saying it was narrowly written and has safeguarded liberties.

Associated Press writers Stephen Braun and Nedra Pickler contributed to this report. Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC and Kimberly Dozier at http://twitter.com/kimberlydozier

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