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NSA Program Gathers 20% Of U.S. Metadata, Reports Say

New reports indicate the NSA’s metadata collection program might operate on a smaller scale than initially believed.
Posted at 11:31 AM, Feb 08, 2014

The NSA's phone metadata collection program might not be as widespread as initially believed.

According to unnamed sources in a Wall Street Journal report, the NSA only gathers some 20 percent of the information on calls placed in the U.S.

"The court orders primarily apply to phone companies, businesses that involve landlines. So it doesn’t cover most cell phone data."

The report explains the NSA has trouble keeping pace with cell phone use, and it can't easily extract important location data from the cell phone records it does collect.

This is in contrast with last year's reports of the program, which suggested its scale was perhaps far more comprehensive. (Via The Guardian)

And a report in The Washington Post indicates this decline might have been going on for some time. A senior U.S. official told the publication the NSA did have phone metadata dominance back in 2006 — but as of last year, its reach had declined to current levels.

Though this could be a temporary setback for the NSA. Both The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post report the agency intends to request clearance from the courts to begin collecting this mobile data.

The news comes on the heels of another metadata decision — this week, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court agreed to alter how the the NSA stores and accesses collected metadata. (Via the Office of the Director of National Intelligence)

It intends to follow the recommendations President Obama laid out in his recent address and require a court order to access the archive of existing information. (Via Politico)

The change is the first step in a program that could eventually see collected metadata — including metadata from cell phones — stored outside of direct government control.