The intelligence officials told the Associated Press that there was an internal proposal to kill the phone surveillance program in early 2013, not long before Edward Snowden’s leaks made it public. The NSA who has always been criticized for seizing phone calls of American citizens has publicly defended the practice as a necessary measure to fight in anticipation of terrorism.
According to the AP reports, some NSA insiders believed the costs of the program outweighed any counter-terrorism benefits and there were also concerns that Americans would be outraged if they found out about it. The cost of recording calls from every domestic landline was getting higher. The program was not built-in to detecting terrorist plots.
A proposal to kill the program was circulating among top NSA leaders, but it never reached the desk of the NSA director. After the leak, NSA leaders defended the program, without disclosing the debate within the agency.
There were also critics inside the agency concerning about whether the program should ever become public knowledge.
The officials reported to AP that the effort to cease the program never got beyond the discussion stage. The proposal never even reached then-NSA director Keith Alexander, officials. Alexander believed that there was still important value in contemplating the phone records. Alexander has defended the program, arguing that its goal has been to protect the country and the safety of American citizens.
But in December 2013, a presidential task force that looked at the NSA’s program recommended that the bulk data collection by the agency be stopped and that phone records instead be held by the phone companies or other third parties. The group also questioned the effectiveness of the program at the cost of the privacy of individuals.