The White House has received a 90-day reauthorization of the NSA's telephone metadata collection program. In the wake of the Eric Snowden leaks about the program, the President made some changes in how the data could be used, but said that to no longer collect the data in bulk would require a change in the law.
The White House sought and received the reauthorization Dec. 4. It expires Feb. 27, which sets a new deadline for a new Congress to pass a bill.
The old Congress failed to agree on a bill, the USA Freedom Act, that would have revamped the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). There are critics of the bill who say it goes too far, and who say it does not go far enough, in protecting the public's privacy and reigning in bulk collection.
Both the attorney general and the director of national intelligence said earlier this year that the bill was a reasonable compromise between the need to collect info to prevent terrorism and the need to protect privacy and civil liberties. It was those two offices that, in a joint statement, said the administration was seeking the 90-day extension given that Congress failed to pass the bill.
"The President announced in March that the best path forward is that the government should not hold this data in bulk, and that the data should remain at the telephone companies with a legal mechanism in place that would allow the government to obtain data pursuant to individual orders from the FISC approving the use of specific numbers for such queries," the joint statement said. "The President also noted that legislation would be required to implement this option."
The Administration signaled it would be happy to work with the new Congress on getting the bill passed, but "given that legislation has not yet been enacted, and given the importance of maintaining the capabilities of the telephony metadata program, the government has sought a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program, as modified by the changes the President directed in January," the statement said.