At midnight tonight, the National Security Agency (NSA) must stop its bulk collection of essentially all phone calls made in the United States.
The conclusion of the vast surveillance system comes as the result of the USA Freedom Act, which Congress passed back in June. At the time, the NSA was allotted 18o days to end its controversial practices and find new ways to keep Americans safe (that hopefully don’t include spying on ordinary citizens). Now, the government agency is out of time, and the White House says that it has a less invasive process ready to replace the old program.
Though it’s been two years since Snowden first brought the surveillance to public attention, the end of the program marks a considerable victory for privacy watchdog groups, who have long lambasted the government for what some considered an abuse of power. Now, should a certain phone number be deemed suspicious by government officials, they must make a specific request to the appropriate telephone company in order to retrieve the data. No longer will the NSA have its own records of this sort of information.
So you can relax maybe a little bit. The government now must actually suspect you of something before collecting information on you. One thing you don’t have to worry about is that American intelligence will in any way be compromised by having to follow new procedures. Earlier this year, the conservative Washington Times summarized a Justice Department study on the prgroram, which had been justified under Section 215 of the original Patriot Act: