NSA Killed System That Sifted Phone Data Legally
Siobhan Gorman writes in The Baltimore Sun:
The National Security Agency developed a pilot program in the late 1990s that would have enabled it to gather and analyze massive amounts of communications data without running afoul of privacy laws. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, it shelved the project -- not because it failed to work -- but because of bureaucratic infighting and a sudden White House expansion of the agency's surveillance powers, according to several intelligence officials.More here.
The agency opted instead to adopt only one component of the program, which produced a far less capable and rigorous program. It remains the backbone of the NSA's warrantless surveillance efforts, tracking domestic and overseas communications from a vast databank of information, and monitoring selected calls.
Four intelligence officials knowledgeable about the program agreed to discuss it with The Sun only if granted anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
The program the NSA rejected, called ThinThread, was developed to handle greater volumes of information, partly in expectation of threats surrounding the millennium celebrations.