Report: Trump To END NSA Metadata Collection Program

President Trump is putting an end to the National Security Agency metadata collection program that was previously brought to light by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The Daily Wire reports Luke Murray, an aide to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, informed the Lawfare Podcast of the White House’s intention.

Here’s more, from the Daily Wire:

The program, authorized by President George W. Bush as part of the PATRIOT ACT passed in the days following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, “permits the government to collect troves of data from phone companies with a simple court order. No actual warrant required,” according to the Washington Examiner.

Then-NSA analyst Edward Snowden leaked details about the government’s massive metadata collection operation in 2013.

Congress reauthorized the program in 2015 with some subtle changes, but in the last year of the Obama administration, the NSA was revealed to have collected more than 151 million phone records, using 42 secret orders. In the first year of the Trump administration, the Examiner says, use of the progarm exploded, and the government collected around 543 million independent phone records, entirely without warrants.

Although the records don’t reveal much about the content of each conversation, the call “metadata” reveals things like location of the caller and recipient, length of the call, and patterns of behavior — all of which the NSA, at one time, said was necessary to help track and neutralize terrorist cells operating within the United States.

According to the report, the NSA has argued protections under the Fourth Amendment do not apply to a widespread collection of data, only specific, individually-targeted seizures of information.

These bulk collections would show a pattern of results, rather than specific communications. But these bulk collections require a substantial amount of storage and are creating difficulties for the NSA.

“But as recently as 2018, the NSA expressed concerns that bulk metadata collection was difficult to manage and to use effectively,” the Daily Wire reports. “Data storage was unwieldy, requiring huge warehouses full of servers, and the program had not provided much in the way of useful information.”

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The program is set to expire at the end of the year where the Trump administration will terminate the 4-year program which began in 2015.

And, from CNN:

NSA programs are classified and the public comments by a House Minority staffer were an unusual way to publicly disclose that the agency had ended use of a program.

Murry noted on the podcast that reauthorizing the program would be challenging.

“I’m not actually certain that the administration will want to start that back up given where they’ve been six months,” he said.

The program was authorized under the 2015 USA Freedom Act, which the Obama administration used to replace an earlier post-9/11 surveillance program that was among the NSA programs disclosed in leaks by whistleblower Edward Snowden.