NSA Phone Surveillance (Kind of) Comes to an End

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One of America’s most expansive spying programs came to an end over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

The National Security Agency is being forced to halt the bulk collection of telephone call records (“metadata”); instead, officials must now get a court order to request data from telecommunication providers to target specific individuals and groups for up to six months.

In some ways, shuttering the program vindicates the efforts of civil liberty hawks and Edward Snowden, who revealed the existence of the program over two years ago.

“So @Snowden reveals our government violates the Constitution. Congress fixes part of that. But he’s a traitor?” tweeted notable Silicon Valley investor and surveillance critic Chris Sacca.

On the other hand, Americans may not want to put away their tinfoil hats just yet. The New York Times reports that that NSA has discovered other ways to collect similar data, including from email, that “can satisfy certain foreign intelligence requirements,” according to released documents.

“The document makes it clear that N.S.A. is able to get all the Internet metadata it needs through foreign collection,” said Timothy Edgar, a privacy official who served during both the President George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

So, while some important programs may be coming to an end, it appears that the NSA may have found technical workarounds.

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