The NSA’s Controversial Phone Surveillance Program Ends on Saturday

The Obama administration announces the end of the controversial NSA telephone metadata surveillance program.

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Nov 27 2015, 8:11pm

(Image: Kurt Bauschardt/Flickr)

In June of 2013, the first story based on top secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA was collecting virtually all Americans' phone records.

More than two years later, that surveillance program is finally coming to an end. The Obama administration announced on the intelligence community's official Tumblr that the program will cease at midnight on Saturday.

"Beginning Sunday, November 29, the government is prohibited from collecting telephone metadata records in bulk under Section 215, including of both U.S. and non-U.S. persons," the announcement read.

The program's end was expected. Last summer, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act, a law that ordered the NSA to cease collecting bulk telephone metadata, but the spy agency was able to get the program extended until November 29 to allow for a transition.

"With the transition period ending, the Intelligence Community has fulfilled an important Presidential commitment that allows national security professionals to retain the capabilities necessary to continue protecting the country, while strengthening the civil liberties protections that the American people cherish," the announcement read.

The program was perhaps the most well-known and controversial of all the surveillance programs revealed by Snowden. Earlier this month, a judge ordered the NSA to stop the program immediately, arguing that it was going "significant harm" to American's privacy.

The judge, who had already ruled that the program violated the Constitution in December of 2013, wrote in his sentence that he didn't want "to allow the government to trump the Constitution merely because it suits the exigencies of the moment."

From now on, the NSA won't be collecting your phone records in bulk—at least under the authorities laid out in Section 215 of the Patriot Act—and will have to make requests for data individually to telephone carriers.

In June of 2013, the first story based on top secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA was collecting virtually all Americans' phone records.

More than two years later, that surveillance program is finally coming to an end. The Obama administration announced on the intelligence community's official Tumblr that the program will cease at midnight on Saturday.

"Beginning Sunday, November 29, the government is prohibited from collecting telephone metadata records in bulk under Section 215, including of both U.S. and non-U.S. persons," the announcement read.

The program's end was expected. Last summer, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act, a law that ordered the NSA to cease collecting bulk telephone metadata, but the spy agency was able to get the program extended until November 29 to allow for a transition.

"With the transition period ending, the Intelligence Community has fulfilled an important Presidential commitment that allows national security professionals to retain the capabilities necessary to continue protecting the country, while strengthening the civil liberties protections that the American people cherish," the announcement read.

The program was perhaps the most well-known and controversial of all the surveillance programs revealed by Snowden. Earlier this month, a judge ordered the NSA to stop the program immediately, arguing that it was going "significant harm" to American's privacy.

The judge, who had already ruled that the program violated the Constitution in December of 2013, wrote in his sentence that he didn't want "to allow the government to trump the Constitution merely because it suits the exigencies of the moment."

From now on, the NSA won't be collecting your phone records in bulk—at least under the authorities laid out in Section 215 of the Patriot Act—and will have to make requests for data individually to telephone carriers.

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