Cipher Brief Expert View: Changing NSA’s Email Collection Program

By General Michael Hayden

General Michael V. Hayden is a retired four-star General in the United States Air Force; he served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006-2009 and as Director of the National Security Agency from 1999-2005.

The National Security Agency (NSA) announced on Friday a change in its intelligence collection under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA). The move comes under the backdrop of the looming deadline of December 31, 2017 when the authorities granted by 702 will expire if not reauthorized by Congress. According to an NSA statement, the revision essentially mean that the “NSA will no longer collect certain internet communications that merely mention a foreign intelligence target.” Referred to as “about” collection, the changes to the NSA’s collection policies are related to a process known as upstream collection.

The Cipher Brief spoke with General Michael Hayden, the former director of the NSA, about what the changes are, why they were made, and what they mean for both intelligence efforts and privacy-conscience Americans.

“The Cipher Brief has become the most popular outlet for former intelligence officers; no media outlet is even a close second to The Cipher Brief in terms of the number of articles published by formers.” —Sept. 2018, Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 62

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