NSA recommends ending mass phone data collection program: report

NSA recommends ending mass phone data collection program: report
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The National Security Agency is recommending that the White House officially end the agency's mass collection of U.S. phone data, according to The Wall Street Journal

Sources told the Journal that the NSA has concluded that the program, which gathered metadata on domestic text messages and phone calls, is too burdensome to maintain. 

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The White House has final jurisdiction over the matter, and will ultimately decide whether to push for legislation to renew the program's legal authority, often referred to as Section 215. Sources told the Journal that the White House has not decided what it will do.

The White House did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment.

Reports have emerged for months that the NSA has been shuttering the program amid technical difficulties. 

A top national security aide to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in a podcast last month revealed that, for the past six months, the spy agency hasn't used the program and predicted that the Trump administration would not ask to renew the program, which is set to expire this year.

Privacy hawks in Congress and civil liberties advocates had been gearing up for a battle on Capitol Hill over the reauthorization of the USA Freedom Act – Congress's 2015 response to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's bombshell disclosures.

The USA Freedom Act created a pared-down version of the phone surveillance program that Snowden revealed six years ago. 

The limited version of the program has faced difficulties for years. In June, the NSA announced that it had purged hundreds of millions of records after discovering the data had been “contaminated” by records it was not supposed to receive.

A former senior intelligence official told the Journal that “the candle is not worth the flame," and the NSA is requesting an end to the program. 

A group of bipartisan lawmakers last month introduced a bill that would end the program for good and take away the NSA's authority to restart it.