The 9/11 attacks exposed the dangerous wall separating the intelligence and law-enforcement communities. In response, Congress developed a number of tools to eliminate those barriers so that critical information could be timely and appropriately shared to address radical Islamic terrorism. Among them was Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act.
In 2006, the National Security Agency transitioned the bulk telephone-metadata acquisition program authorized under the president’s Terrorist Surveillance Program to the business-records court-order authority of Section 215. Since shortly after 9/11, this program has been helping to keep Americans safe by acquiring non-content call records, i.e., telephone numbers and the date, time, and duration of a call. This program has yielded invaluable intelligence that has helped prevent attacks and uncovered terrorist plots. Nevertheless, the Obama administration has built up unnecessary barriers that sacrifice the fragile operational efficiency of the program without actually accomplishing anything in terms of data security.
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