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The U.S. National Security Agency will end its daily vacuuming of millions of Americans' phone records by Sunday and replace the practice with more tightly targeted surveillance methods, the Obama administration said on Friday.
It comes two and a half years after the controversial program was exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The move, mandated by a law passed six months ago, represents the greatest reduction of U.S. spying capabilities since they expanded dramatically after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Under the Freedom Act, the NSA and law enforcement agencies can no longer collect telephone calling records in bulk in an effort to sniff out suspicious activity. Such records, known as "metadata," reveal which numbers Americans are calling and what time they place those calls, but not the content of the conversations.
Instead analysts must now get a court order to ask telecommunications companies like Verizon Communications to enable monitoring of call records of specific people or groups for up to six months.
Some Republican lawmakers want to preserve bulk collection until 2017, citing the Nov. 13 Paris attacks in which 130 people died. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the killings.
But any new surveillance measures are unlikely to become law ahead of the November 2016 presidential elections.
A presidential review committee concluded the surveillance regime did not lead to a single clear counter terrorism breakthrough that could be directly attributed to the program.
Metadata collected by the NSA over the past five years will be preserved for "data integrity purposes" through February 29, the White House said.
After that the NSA will purge all of its historic records once pending litigation is resolved.
Now, instead of the NSA keeping the metadata onsite, the organization will theoretically have to obtain a warrant from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to request metadata pertaining to a person or a group from a telecom company.
Privacy advocates largely pulled their support for this reform effort before the USA Freedom Act was passed, saying that the language in the bill was too vague and noting that no “probable cause” standard was required to be granted a warrant through FISC.
The Office of the Director of National intelligence (ODNI) released a press statement on Friday explaining that going forward the NSA need only show FISC that it intends to request metadata based on "a 'specific selection term'—a term that specifically identifies a person, account, address, or personal device in a way that limits the scope of information sought to the greatest extent reasonably practicable.”
Knowledge is power and our data is their knowledge, think about it. I'll be keeping a watchful eye on this development. I hope you all feel safer and more secure as you can rest assured that the NSA will no longer collect your cellphone data. Just make sure to avoid words freedom, revolution, and terrorist or the vox switches in your phone will activate and authorize their snooping under new "freedom protecting" regulations. I can see it now... edit on 29-11-2015 by eisegesis because: (no reason given)