WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has called on Congress to move quickly to pass legislation that would achieve the president’s goal of ending government mass collection of Americans’ phone records.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has called on Congress to move quickly to pass legislation that would achieve the president’s goal of ending government mass collection of Americans’ phone records.


"Having carefully considered the available options, I have decided that the best path forward is that the government should not collect or hold this data in bulk," President Barack Obama said in a statement Thursday, adding that "legislation will be needed."


"We really hope that the Congress can act swiftly," said a senior administration official, who spoke in a conference call with reporters, but on the condition of anonymity.


The official did not specify a timeline but noted that the administration was reauthorizing on Friday the current system of data collection by the National Security Agency for another 90 days, suggesting that that would be an appropriate window of time for lawmakers to act.


Obama in a speech in January said he wanted to end the government’s gathering and storage of what officials say are hundreds of billions of records about Americans’ phone calls. Since the program was disclosed last June, it has prompted concern about the potential for abuse.


At the same time, Obama has said he believes the government needs to preserve a capability to seek clues to terrorist plots that officials say can be hidden in the records. That is why, the senior official suggested, the administration is not simply ending the mass collection now. Instead, the official said, it is seeking legislation to establish a "new program."


Attention now shifts to Congress, which has before it several competing bills that seek varying degrees of change — some more ambitious than the White House’s. But Obama’s proposal has become the baseline, analysts said.


"The president’s plan is a major step in the right direction and a victory for privacy," American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony Romero said. "But this must be the beginning of surveillance reform, not the end." Romero urged support for legislation that would end all forms of bulk collection, not just for phone records — as Obama’s proposal calls for.


Obama has already ordered some changes to the program — but he wants those made permanent through legislation. For instance, the surveillance court in February approved the two-hop limit and the requirement that every number queried be approved in advance by a judge as associated with a terrorist or a terrorist group.