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NSA replaces bulk phone spying program with new surveillance

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This January 29, 2010 file photo shows an aerial view of the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. (AFP photo)

The US National Security Agency (NSA) is set to replace its massive snooping program with new surveillance measures on Sunday.

Congress voted June to ban the NSA from collecting telephone records in bulk, ending a practice adopted following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The law that ended the program, the USA Freedom Act, gave the NSA 180 days to transition into a new system, and that period expires on Sunday.

Based on the same law, however, the agency can obtain the data it needs through other channels like telecommunication companies.

But the government will have to seek individual information from telephone companies on a case-by-case basis, including obtaining a court order, when conducting an investigation. 

Some Republican lawmakers have called for extending the present wide-ranging spying on US citizens until 2017, citing the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France.

Recently, leading GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump also expressed support for the bulk collection of phone records.

The NSA’s widespread surveillance of Americans and foreign nationals, as well as political leaders around the world, was exposed by its former contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.

Snowden, who lives in Russia where he has been granted asylum, has said that US government surveillance methods far surpass those of an ‘Orwellian’ state, referring to George Orwell’s classic novel “1984,” which describes a society where personal privacy is continuously invaded by spy agencies.

Sniffing out data from Americans rose dramatically after the 9/11 attacks in New York.

The NSA used the attacks as a justification to start a mass surveillance program. In 2012, NSA whistleblower Bill Binney estimated that the spy agency had intercepted 20 trillion communications “transactions” of Americans such as phone calls, emails, and other forms of data.


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