NSA reportedly recommend abandoning surveillance program for all telephone calls and text messages
In an exclusive report based on anonymous sources, Dustin Voltz and Warren P. Strobel of the Wall Street Journal (non-paywall version here) write:
The National Security Agency has recommended that the White House abandon a surveillance program that collects information about U.S. phone calls and text messages, saying the logistical and legal burdens of keeping it outweigh its intelligence benefits, according to people familiar with the matter.
The recommendation against seeking the renewal of the once-secret spying program amounts to an about-face by the agency, which had long argued in public and to congressional overseers that the program was vital to the task of finding and disrupting terrorism plots against the U.S.
The latest view is rooted in a growing belief among senior intelligence officials that the spying program provides limited value to national security and has become a logistical headache.
Frustrations about legal-compliance issues forced the NSA to halt use of the program earlier this year, the people said. Its legal authority will expire in December unless Congress reauthorizes it.
It is up to the White House, not the NSA, to decide whether to push for legislation to renew the phone-records program. The White House hasn’t yet reached a policy decision about the surveillance program, according to the people familiar with the matter.
The White House National Security Council and the NSA declined to comment.
Oddly, no mention at all is made of the unfolding scandal of the use of NSA data to spy on the Trump campaign.
Early in 2016 NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers was alerted of a significant uptick in FISA-702(17) “About” queries using the FBI/NSA database that holds all metadata records on every form of electronic communication.
The NSA compliance officer alerted Admiral Mike Rogers who then initiated a full compliance audit on/around March 9th, 2016, for the period of November 1st, 2015, through May 1st, 2016.
While the audit was ongoing, due to the severity of the results that were identified, Admiral Mike Rogers stopped anyone from using the 702(17) “about query” option, and went to the extraordinary step of blocking all FBI contractor access to the database on April 18, 2016….
I take this proposal being mooted as a sign that the scandal is going to continue to unfold, and the public will learn more about it. A lot of posteriors are being guarded. And, not so incidentally, the ability of a present or future president to employ this tool would be curtailed.
Stay tuned. This is, as Sundance writes, “BIG!”