A lingering problem, though, is that both of the proposals for NSA reform deal with what data the NSA gets, and not what it does with it, noted Elizabeth Goitein, of NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice. Once the metadata for a targeted number and its hops are in the so-called “corporate store,” of metadata, there are few limits on how it can be used.

“As far as we know, once a journalist’s call records have been added to the corporate store, the NSA may do with them what it pleases,” said Toomey, of the ACLU.

A White House spokeswoman told the Guardian last week that the court would issue new “procedures to provide privacy protections around the use, retention, and dissemination of phone data.”

How soon these changes might come into effect is uncertain: Obama’s proposal will have to be squared with competing proposals in the House—the intelligence committee bill and the USA Freedom Act, introduced last fall in the Senate and House Judiciary committees. That bill puts more sweeping restrictions on when Americans’ data can be sought and what can be done with it. It has the backing of prominent civil libertarians in Congress, but is farther from the administration’s proposition.

In the interim, the White House says it’s continuing with the procedures it introduced in February, allowing government metadata collection but limiting queries to surveillance-court-approved, two-hop searches. Oregon senator Ron Wyden, a leading Congressional critic of the NSA, has called on the administration to stop bulk collection without waiting for legislation.

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Cora Currier is a freelance journalist focusing on national security. Previously, she was a reporting fellow at ProPublica and on the editorial staff of The New Yorker