The New York Times reports: For years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, even as the National Security Agency fiercely defended its secret efforts to sweep up domestic telephone data, there were doubters inside the agency who considered the program wildly expensive with few successes to show for it.
So as Congress moves to take the government out of the business of indiscriminate bulk collection of domestic calling data, the agency is hardly resisting. Former intelligence officials, in fact, said Friday that the idea to store the data with telecommunications companies rather than the government was suggested to President Obama in 2013 by Gen. Keith B. Alexander, then the N.S.A. director, who saw the change as a way for the president to respond to criticism without losing programs the N.S.A. deemed more vital.
The limits on bulk collection are the centerpiece of legislation now advancing in the House that would be the first significant response to the spying revelations by Edward J. Snowden, a former N.S.A. contractor. In addition to new restrictions on domestic data sweeps, the plan would require more transparency and introduce ostensibly independent voices into secret intelligence court proceedings.
But as one recently departed senior intelligence official put it on Friday, “This is hardly major change.” [Continue reading…]