In this day and age of technology and mass surveillance, the NSA has gotten a very bad reputation in quick succession. This is primarily the result of the agency’s own doing and how they have seemingly gone all-in on mass phone surveillance in the US and beyond. That situation may now come to change, as the agency officially recommends to end its phone surveillance program. A very surprising turn of events which is met with plenty of skepticism.
The NSA Says no to Mass Phone Surveillance?
It is not all that common for government agencies to go back on their mass surveillance efforts out of the blue. In the case of the NSA, it would appear the agency is more than pleased to recommend the White House to end its phone surveillance program. For those who have no idea what this project entails, it officially allows the NSA to collect US-based phone calls and text messages alike. It is unclear how long this mass surveillance tool has been in place, although many sources claim it has been around since late 2001.
At the time, it was deemed normal the NSA would step up its mass communication surveillance accordingly. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, a severe course of action appeared more than warranted. With billions of records to be collected every day, it is evident the NSA also got its hands on a lot of information not pertaining to terrorism. This became even more apparent once Edward Snowden shared some of the “secrets” the NSA has been keeping from the public.
Following those Snowden revelations, the USA Freedom Act was introduced in 2015. Because of that new “law”, the mass phone surveillance scheme was toned down significantly. Even so, hundreds of millions of records were retained by telephone companies, which did not put this program to an end by any means. It now seems the NSA is the one officially proposing to end this project once and for all, although many people remain skeptical regarding this unexpected turn of events.
There has been some minor evidence as to how the NSA has not been able to use its mass phone surveillance system for several months now. This is both due to technical issues – which remain undisclosed – as well as compliance concerns. It is a bit strange to see the agency acknowledge collecting hundreds of millions of phone records per year would cause compliance concerns nearly 20 years after first introducing it. That “kerfuffle” was apparent from day one for everyone to see.
Additionally, there are mounting questions as to whether or not this data collection scheme is still vital to national security. As of right now, that no longer seems to be the case, albeit the threat of terrorism has not diminished in the slightest. Even senior intelligence officers claim the NSA’s program has “limited value”, which would explain why the agency is now looking at ways to put an end to it once and for all. Considering how the White House has the final say regarding this matter, it remains to be seen how things will effectively play out.
For the time being, the decision regarding the NSA’s mass phone surveillance scheme has yet to be made public. It remains to be seen whether the White House decides to renew the program or pull the plug on it altogether. That decision is not necessarily expected anytime soon, although some clarity would be beneficial for all involved parties and US consumers. When even the NSA is forced to acknowledge its scheme suffers from technical issues, shelving it once and for all might be the best course of action after all.