The Associated Press reported last month that the DNI is already funding five research teams across the country in an effort to develop an encrypted search technique that could be used by the NSA to securely scan phone databanks held elsewhere.
In a related development, the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in Washington on Thursday authorized two major changes in the phone collection program that Obama committed to in January. The court agreed to require judicial approval for each internal NSA search of telephone data for terrorist connections and it will narrow the numbers of American phone users whose records can be scanned during each search, the DNI reported.
In the first instance, the NSA now must provide judges with "reasonable, articulable suspicion" for each search of phone data for terrorist connections. That hurdle can be lifted during national emergencies. And the court ruling now scales back the NSA's use of a "three-hop" system in its searches — allowing the agency to scan the records of those in phone contact with a terror suspect and a second wave of people in touch with the first group, but no longer allowing searches of a third wave of phone contacts.
Chief Justice John Roberts on Friday named two new judges to the secret court. Roberts said that U.S. District Judges James E. Boasberg and Richard C. Tallman joined the court on Jan. 27. Boasberg was appointed by Obama, Tallman by President Bill Clinton. Their appointment will likely do little to dampen criticism that the majority of FISA judges picked by Roberts are Republicans.
Associated Press writer Frederic J. Frommer contributed to this report.
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