The U.S. National Security Agency collected records about Americans' emails long past December 2011, the date officials said the controversial program had been shut down. Instead, U.S. spies were able to continue examining social links revealed by Americans' email tendencies while undergoing less scrutiny from the court meant to review the intelligence-gathering process.
Details about the email collection records come from an NSA inspector general's report published by the New York Times Thursday. After years of collecting metadata on Americans, the NSA changed its procedure in November 2010 to allow intelligence analysts to examine data collected on American emails sent to foreign recipients. That change made the existing metadata collection program, which was subject to restrictions from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, redundant.
“The document makes it clear that NSA is able to get all the Internet metadata it needs through foreign collection,” Timothy Edgar, a privacy official in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence under Presidents Bush and Obama, told the Times. “The change it made to its procedures in 2010 allowed it to exploit metadata involving Americans. Once that change was made, it was no longer worth the effort to collect Internet metadata inside the United States.”
The disclosure comes amid ongoing scrutiny of mass surveillance techniques in Congress, which enacted the USA Freedom Act earlier this year, and throughout the world after terrorist attacks in Paris killed 129 people.