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NSA says it will stop collection of certain emails

WASHINGTON -- The National Security Agency says it will no longer collect certain communications moving on the internet simply because they mention a foreign intelligence target. 

The move is being applauded by privacy advocates. 

The agency says it will now limit such collection to internet communications sent directly to or from a foreign target. The NSA says the change reduces the chance of sweeping up communications of U.S. citizens or others not involved in direct contact with a foreign intelligence target. 

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This section of the Foreign Intelligence Act, or FISA, was set to expire at the end of this year, the NSA said in a statement. The NSA said Friday its changes were made following an in-house review. 

Concern over the incidental collection of Americans' communications renewed this year when the Trump administration accused the intelligence community of improperly revealing the names of Americans that came up through incidental collections. 

Controversy over the program dates back to 2011, when the FISA court, the secret judicial body that oversees surveillance, ruled that the NSA had to find ways to limit what it collects and how long it keeps it. Two years later, Edward Snowden exposed details to the public about the secret surveillance program that gathered data on many Americans' electronic communications.

A judge ruled in 2013 that the program was likely unconstitutional, but delayed a final ruling pending government approval. In 2015, an appeals court judge in New York ruled against the program, but the FISA court said that ruling was wrong. 

Despite the legal wrangling, the surveillance had continued. 

On Friday, Snowden applauded the NSA's latest decision on Twitter.

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