Pres. Obama calls for end to government control of phone data

President Obama announced changes to government surveillance programs today in Washington. (1/17/14)

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is calling for an end to the government's control of phone data from millions of Americans and ordering intelligence agencies to get a secretive court's permission before accessing such records.

Announcing changes to government surveillance programs today in Washington, Obama offered no recommendation for where the data should be moved but gave the intelligence community and the attorney general 60 days to study options. A presidential review board has recommended the telephone companies or an unspecified third party keep the data.

The president also recommended lifting some of the secrecy surrounding the demands that might be sent to companies for data on customers involved in a national security investigation. Obama says such "national security letters" will no longer remain secret indefinitely, unless the government establishes an ongoing need for the secrecy in an investigation.

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Roughly 20,000 such letters are sent yearly by the FBI to banks, telecommunication companies and other businesses, but recipients are barred from disclosing anything about them. Obama wants to change that and allow some of the information to be made public.

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