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The National Security Agency has recommended that the White House abandoned a controversial surveillance program to collect large amounts of information about Americans’ phone calls and text messages, which claim the legal and logistical burden of maintaining it outweigh the benefits of the intelligence community.
The recommendation was reported by The Wall Street Journal, and involved input from the NSA, the FBI and the Department of Justice, provides a surprising about-face on a program – long criticized by privacy advocates – that the federal officials have previously said it was essential to find and disrupt terrorist plots against the United States.
The once-secret program, which was revealed by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and was seen as not feasible for some time now, is now seen as something that provides limited intelligence on the U.S., according to the Magazine.
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A federal source familiar with the matter confirmed to Fox News that some parts of the surveillance program can continue, but not in its entirety.
After Snowden’s disclosures, the Congress of the united states the Freedom to Act in 2015, which the spy agency to replace the bulk metadata collection program with something much smaller that would allow phone companies to retain call records.
“The candle is not worth the flame,” a former senior intelligence official told the Magazine about the program.
Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden (Fox News)
Terrorists have moved away from the use of mobile phones and fixed lines for communication, opting instead for encrypted apps and social media platforms, is a separate intelligence source familiar with the issue told Fox News.
Privacy advocates, while pleased with the move, said that much more needs to be done.
“At this point, the end of the call detail record authority is the low-hanging fruit, and not enough,” ACLU senior legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani said in a statement provided to Fox News. “Unless the Congress enacts broader reforms, the government will continue to have the power to collect numerous sensitive data of Americans without a warrant under Section 215 and other surveillance powers. The congress should completely reform these agencies to prevent large-scale collection of information and unfair targeting of journalists, minorities and vulnerable populations.”
In the last month, the ACLU and a coalition of nearly 40 groups sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee requesting that it hold hearings on the reauthorization of section 215 and other provisions of the Patriot Act. Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows the government to obtain a secret court order requiring telephone companies to hand over records or other “tangible thing” deemed “relevant” to international terrorism, counterespionage, or foreign intelligence investigations.
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However, Congressional support for the metadata collection program also seems to take off.
Sen. Mark Warner, Democrat of West Virginia, told the Journal that he does not believe that it should be extended.
“At this point I think it’s going to be a rather difficult argument for them to make,” Warner said. “I will listen to what case they want to present, but I’m not convinced at this point that the benefits of the program are worth the effort.”
Fox News Channel’s Catherine Herridge and Gillian Turner contributed to this report.