By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The National Security Agency is promising to cut back on the number of private emails it’s been reading and collecting.

Alex DeMetrick reports, it’s ending a controversial surveillance technique that’s focused on U.S. citizens.

For nearly 10 years, the NSA has been prying into the private emails of citizens. Congress OK’d it when it amended how foreign intelligence can be collected.

“It authorized NSA to look into strictly personal e-mails between U.S. citizens,” says Dr. Michael Greenberger, of the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security. “They got the right simply because a foreign operative of foreign operation was mentioned.”

That practice came to light when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden publicly revealed it.

So just whose email got read?

Anyone who used a targeted phrase or word, according to Greenberger.

“Like ISIS, which many people might mention in passing,” he says.

The NSA says it has now stopped the practice, focusing instead only on communications that are sent directly to or from a foreign target.

“This now means the NSA will not be reading those emails, and if they collect those emails, they’ll destroy them,” Greenberger says.

Violating American’s privacy has proven so controversial, the NSA may have ended the email practice in order to win congressional re-authoritization of its other surveillance techniques.

The authority for the NSA to conduct surveillance operations expires at the end of the year, unless congress re-authorizes it.

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