- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2019

The National Security Agency is preparing to potentially abandon a controversial surveillance program exposed by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the agency’s director indicated.

Paul Nakasone, head of both the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, vaguely discussed the future of the government’s once-secretive system for obtaining and analyzing domestic telephone records, or metadata, in light of a senior congressional aide recently claiming that it was quietly suspended.

“We are in a deliberative process right now,” Mr. Nakasone said Wednesday at the RSA security conference in San Francisco, attendees reported. “We’ll work very, very closely with the administration and Congress to make recommendations on what authority should be reauthorized.”

Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NSA began secretly ordering U.S. telecommunication companies to give the government copies of metadata detailing effectively every call and text placed over domestic networks. The efforts were made public through documents leaked to the media by Mr. Snowden in 2013 prior to being significantly reformed through legislation passed by Congress in 2015, the USA Freedom Act, slated to sunset at the end of the year.

Luke Murry, a national security adviser to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said during an interview last week that the NSA stopped using the system six months earlier and that it is not guaranteed to be reauthorized by Congress before expiring.

NSA representatives previously declined to comment on Mr. Murry’s remarks. Mr. Nakasone said he was “aware” of related reporting on Wednesday but neither confirmed nor denied whether the surveillance program is currently operational, The Daily Beast reported.

The Justice Department brought criminal charges against Mr. Snowden, 35, shortly after he identified himself as the source of leaked NSA documents published by news outlets in 2013. He was charged while traveling abroad, granted political asylum by Russia and has not returned.

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