Controversial NSA Surveillance Program Ends Saturday

'A long-awaited victory for privacy advocates'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 28, 2015 3:13 PM CST
Controversial NSA Surveillance Program Ends Saturday
The government's mass collection of data on American phone calls–exposed by Edward Snowden–ends Saturday.   (AP Photo, File)

After more than a decade, the federal government's practice of collecting data on telephone calls made by the vast majority of Americans will end at midnight Saturday, NBC News reports. According to Reuters, the end of the program—exposed by Edward Snowden more than two years ago—represents the first instance of the US scaling back its surveillance since spying drastically expanded following the Sept. 11 attacks. Reuters calls it a "long-awaited victory for privacy advocates." NBC reports Obama announced the end of the phone data collection program in January. And Congress voted to ban it in July while leaving a six-month "transition period." A federal committee found the program didn't have any specific successes in fighting terrorism, according to Reuters.

Under the old program, the federal government collected data on call length, time, and phone numbers involved, though it didn't monitor or record the content of the calls, NBC reports. Starting Sunday, individual government agencies will have to request data on specific calls from telephone companies. "There is still a need to be able to identify communications between terrorists abroad and individuals with whom they are in contact in the United States," according to a statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The Wall Street Journal reports Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and other Republicans have advocated for the old bulk data collection program to be reinstated in the wake of the Paris attacks. (More Edward Snowden stories.)

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