NSA promises to delete old records

NSA promises to delete old records
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Federal intelligence officials are promising to delete old records picked up under a controversial National Security Agency (NSA) program that was overhauled earlier this summer.

Once the NSA ends its bulk collection and storage of tens of millions of Americans’ phone records later this year, it will also eliminate analysts’ access to the five years’ worth of old data, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said on Monday

The decision forestalls what would have been certain outrage from privacy advocates had the NSA decided to keep the old data, which one top court has ruled was gathered illegally.

The change was prompted by the passage of the USA Freedom Act in June, which ended the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone “metadata.” 

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Regulation: Massachusetts AG sues Equifax | Trump weighs easing rules on gun exports | EPA nominee to fight worker safety rule in court Trump to ease rules on gun exports: report Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions MORE (D-Vt.), one of the authors of the USA Freedom Act, said on Monday that the government’s announcement “is an important step toward regaining the trust of the American people, who do not want the government indefinitely storing their private phone information.”

Before, the agency collected millions of people’s metadata — which includes the phone numbers involved in a call, the time the call occurred and how long it lasted, but not the actual conversation — and kept it for five years. Soon, the spy agency will have to request a narrow set of records from private phone companies, and only after obtaining a court order. 

“This is far more protective of privacy and provides the information we need for public safety," Rep. Adam SchiffAdam SchiffOvernight Tech: Facebook, Twitter to testify before Senate | EU orders Amazon to pay 0M in back taxes | Reddit hires first lobbyists Facebook, Twitter will testify at Senate hearing Schiff: Almost all RT ads on Twitter designed to push negative coverage of Clinton MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and a supporter of NSA  reform, said in a statement.

The NSA’s phone records program was the most controversial program unveiled by Edward Snowden’s leaks about the NSA two years ago.

The USA Freedom Act gave the NSA six months to wind down its current program. It will formally end on Nov. 29, the ODNI said.

The secret federal court that oversees U.S. spying practices has authorized the NSA to continue collecting Americans’ phone records until that time. 

While the five years of “historic” data collected by the NSA will be off-limits to analysts, “technical personnel” will be able to access it for another three months “to verify the records produced” under the new system, the ODNI said.

Additionally, ongoing court cases surrounding the program have required the NSA to hold on to the data until the cases are finalized, it said.

The NSA will keep the phone data for those cases, the government said, and it “will not be used or accessed for any other purpose.”

The NSA promised to destroy those records “as soon as possible” after the court requirements end.

—Last updated at 5:49 p.m.