FILE PHOTO – An aerial view shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters in Ft. Meade, Maryland, U.S. on January 29, 2010. REUTERS/Larry Downing/File Photo By Dustin Volz | WASHINGTON
WASHINGTON The U.S. National Security Agency has halted a form of surveillance that allowed it to collect the digital communications of Americans that mentioned a foreign intelligence target without a warrant, three sources told Reuters.
The decision to stop the program, which collected messages sent or received internationally and which had been criticized by privacy advocates, was first reported by the New York Times.
The change is an attempt to remedy privacy compliance issues raised by rules implemented in 2011 by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which operates in secrecy, sources said. The chief concern had been that the specific kind of collection sometimes produced surveillance of messages that were wholly domestic because of technical reasons.
Julian Sanchez, a privacy and surveillance expert with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, called the decision "very significant" and among the top priorities for reform among civil liberties group.
The NSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Writing by Eric Beech; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Jeffrey Benkoe)