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NSA to Stop Sifting Americans' Email

By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 02, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When Donald Trump tweets about the New York Times, that's one thing, but when Edward Snowden tweets about it, that's something else.

After the New York Times reported that the National Security Agency will stop collecting Americans' email and text messages, Snowden tweeted an "I told you so." The former CIA agent, who is on the lam for leaking intelligence secrets, said "the truth changed everything."

"Contrary to denials, NSA was in fact sifting through Americans' emails," he tweeted. "And now they've been forced to halt it."

Bulk Data Collection

Snowden first exposed the practice in 2013, saying the agency grabbed communications that only mentioned suspected terrorists -- even if the senders and the recipients were not suspects. A judge had ruled that, without protections for Americans' privacy, the program violated their Fourth Amendment rights.

The "bulk collection data collection" program, authorized under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, was designed to identify approved "foreign targets" with possible links to terrorism. But the NSA decided to cease the program because it was not complying with the court's ruling.

President George W. Bush signed the FISA Amendments Act in 2008, and President Barack Obama signed an extension in 2012. It is set to expire this year, although Congress may vote to extend it again.

"Congress should take steps to ensure such practices are never resurrected and end policies that permit broad, warrantless surveillance under Section 702, which is up for reauthorization at the end of the year," said Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union.

No Joke, No Warrant Needed

Techdirt, commenting on the development at the NSA, said it was a long time coming. The outspoken blog said the practice gave the FBI and other agencies a "backdoor" to prosecution without constitutional protections.

"In other words, did you joke about Osama bin Laden in an email?" the blog said. "It's possible that under Section 702, the NSA could collect that email without a warrant."

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