The US National Security Agency is ready to stop collecting Americans' domestic call records in bulk and move to a more targeted system later this month, meeting a legislative deadline imposed earlier this year.
According to a government memo sent on Monday from the NSA to relevant committees in the US Congress, the spy agency "has successfully developed a technical architecture to support the new program" in time for it to become operational as scheduled on November 29.
In stating the program's progress and the NSA's intent to use the new system, the memo appeared to rebut claims by senate intelligence committee chairman Richard Burr, who last week said he anticipated the new program would never be used because it was overly cumbersome and slow.
Congress passed legislation earlier this year that brought an end to the NSA’s indiscriminate gathering of US phone metadata, a practice exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden more than two years ago.
The legislation, known as the USA Freedom Act, called for a six-month transition period after which the NSA could only access targeted data from telephone providers with judicial approval.
"While our work is not yet complete, testing of internal systems functionality at both NSA and the telecommunications providers has begun, and exchanges of test files with the providers are under way," the NSA’s memo read.
It said it would be ready to utilise the new system on November 29 and that it planned to provide further updates in early 2016 about the program's implementation.
It will also provide a "comparison between operations under [the] new program and those under the soon-to-expire bulk collection program".
Earlier today a federal judge ordered the NSA to stop collecting the call records of a lawyer and his firm, a narrow and largely symbolic victory for privacy advocates that does not affect the scheduled shut down of the full program later this month.