NSA rejected system that sifted phone data legally

THE BALTIMORE SUN

WASHINGTON -- The National Security Agency developed a pilot program in the late 1990s that would have enabled it to gather and analyze huge amounts of communications data without running afoul of privacy laws. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, it shelved the project - not because it failed to work but because of bureaucratic infighting and a sudden White House expansion of the agency's surveillance powers, according to several intelligence officials.

The agency opted instead to adopt only one component of the program, which produced a far less capable and rigorous program. It remains the backbone of the NSA's warrantless surveillance efforts, tracking domestic and overseas communications from a vast databank of information, and monitoring selected calls.

Hayden CIA nominee faces well-informed Senate panel today. Pg 2A

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