Over two years after Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA, the secretive agency is finally making some changes. They’re putting an end to the mass metadata surveillance of telephone communications, due to the implementation of the USA Freedom Act. The act was signed into law earlier this year, and beginning at midnight on November 29th, the NSA will have to stop the controversial program.
However, the agency’s surveillance dragnet hasn’t been neutered. The only thing that has changed is the way they collect this data. They can no longer cite article 215 of the Patriot Act, which allowed them to gather phone data on everyone without any restrictions. Now when the NSA receives a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, they can only collect data that is relevant to specific terms outlined in the warrant, and they can only investigate this information for 6 months. Alex Abdo of the ACLU is calling it a “symbolic victory, given it was the first major concession the intelligence agency had to make.”
Other Critics of the NSA, however, view the USA Freedom Act as an expansion of the NSA’s powers, rather than a hindrance. It’s only preventing the NSA from collecting a minuscule amount of data, and other executive orders are in place that allow bulk telephone data collection to continue, not to mention their broad collection of internet data, which hasn’t been addressed. For now it appears that the NSA’s latest concession is only a very tiny chink in their armor.
See Andrew Napolitano’s take on the USA Freedom Act