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Trump administration reportedly wants to extend NSA phone surveillance program

Just in case.

National Security Agency

A workstation inside the Threat Operations Center at the NSA in Fort Meade, Maryland.

Getty Images

The Trump administration has reportedly asked Congress to permanently reauthorize all provisions of the USA Freedom Act, including a controversial National Security Agency program that collects and analyzes records on millions of Americans' calls and texts in an attempt to thwart terrorists.

In a letter, dated Wednesday, to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee, outgoing Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats acknowledged that the NSA call record program had been suspended but urged Congress to extend its legal authority anyway, according to The Hill

"As technology changes, our adversaries' tradecraft and communications habits will continue to evolve and adapt," Coats wrote in the letter, according to The Hill. "In light of this dynamic environment, the Administration supports reauthorization of this provision as well."

The USA Freedom Act, set to expire in December, was designed to curtail some of the federal government's sweeping surveillance powers. The NSA had been collecting large amounts of call metadata under a controversial national security policy put in place by the Patriot Act in 2001. The debate over those programs intensified in 2013 when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents detailing the ways in which the secretive US government agency was collecting data. In 2015, Congress put a new system in place under the USA Freedom Act that required federal agencies to seek a court order on a case-by-case basis to obtain call data from phone companies.

In April, the NSA reportedly recommended the White House abandon the program because it has legal and logistical burdens that outweigh its value to national security. Just a month earlier, a national security advisor revealed that the NSA hadn't used the system in months.

The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Representatives for the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee also didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.