NSA Reportedly Recommends Retiring Phone Surveillance Program

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The National Security Agency has recommended the White House abandon a controversial program that collects and analyzes data on millions of Americans’ domestic calls and texts, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The recommendation against renewing the program represents a dramatic reversal from the longstanding position of the agency, which had argued that the program was vital to identifying and disrupting terrorist activities.

The program, which was put in place after the 2001 terrorist attacks, has legal and logistical burdens that outweigh its value to national security, sources told the Journal.

The reported recommendation comes a little more than a month after a national security advisor revealed that the NSA hasn’t used the system in months. Luke Murray, an advisor for Republican House minority leader Kevin McCarty of California, also said at the time the White House might not seek to renew its legal authority to operate the program.

The NSA had been collecting large amounts of metadata, the digital information that accompanies electronic communications, under a controversial national security policy put in place by the Patriot Act in 2001. That information included what phone numbers were on the call, when the call was placed and how long it lasted, which was then saved in a database.

The already heated debate over the Patriot Act programs intensified in 2013 when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents detailing the ways in which the secretive US government agency was collecting data. A new system put in place by Congress in 2015 required federal agencies to seek a court order on a case-by-case basis to obtain call data from telephone companies.

The USA Freedom Act of 2015, legislation designed to curtail the federal government’s sweeping surveillance of millions of Americans’ phone records, is set to expire at the end of year, if the Trump administration doesn’t ask Congress to renew its authority to continue the program.

The NSA and White House didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

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