WASHINGTON — For more than six years, President Obama has directed his national security team to chase terrorists by scooping up vast amounts of telephone records with a program that was conceived of and implemented by his predecessor after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Now, after successfully badgering Congress into reauthorizing the program — with new safeguards the president says will protect privacy — he has left little question that he owns it.
The new surveillance program created by the USA Freedom Act will end more than a decade of bulk collection of telephone records by the National Security Agency. But it will require telephone companies to hold the records and make them available for broad searches by government officials with a court order.
That compromise may end up being too restrictive for the counterterrorism professionals, as some Republicans predict. Or, as others vehemently insisted in congressional debate during the past week, it may remain too much of an intrusion on the lives of innocent Americans.