The NSA Stopped Bulk-Collecting Americans’ Phone Records Last Night

By
FILE - This Sept. 19, 2007, file photo, shows the National Security Agency building at Fort Meade, Md.  The government is secretly collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon under a top-secret court order, according to the Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Cailf., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Obama administration is defending the National Security Agency's need to collect such records, but critics are calling it a huge over-reach. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
Photo: Charles Dharapak

United States tradition calls for at least one news dump per major holiday, and this Thanksgiving was no exception. On Friday, the White House announced that the National Security Agency would cease the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records by midnight on Saturday. The change is the result of the June passage of the USA Freedom Act. It comes two-and-a-half years after Edward Snowden revealed the existence of the NSA’s mass-surveillance program.

From Reuters:

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.

This doesn’t mean that the NSA’s mass-surveillance days are over. As The Guardian points out, the agency “can continue to harvest bulk communications from the internet and social media.” Still, it must be nice for Snowden to finally see some concrete results, even if he remains stuck in Russia indefinitely.