THE US NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY (NSA) considered dropping its local mass surveillance practices before Edward Snowden made his revelations, but decided that perhaps this was not the best idea.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Us spectators can see why it might have a been a good idea for the NSA to cancel that controversial programme back then, and perhaps the NSA can too.
It would still have been controversial, but it might have been far less controversial and the NSA might not quite be as damned as it is today.
The Huffington Post reports about the NSA cancelling blanket local surveillance, quoting sources who say that the idea was mooted at lower levels but did not make it quite as far as former director General Keith Alexander.
Associated Press sources claim that some sage bodies at the NSA felt that the incredible cost of dragnet snooping on innocent communications for the occasional mention of terror chat outweighed the benefits.
Officials were concerned that it cost too much money, was ineffective, unpopular and not a key tool in the fight against terrorism. Higher level officials, or presumably just more people, disagreed, and the system that we have come to know and be appalled by continued.
The timing of this is handy, as the US government will get a chance this year to rule on the work of the NSA and an opportunity to act on talk of change that came from President Obama last year.
Obama's proposals from early 2014 made it clear that changes should happen, that Edward Snowden existed, and that the NSA was not operating in quite the way that it should.
"The task before us now is simply bigger than repairing the damage done, or preventing more disclosures. We need to make some important decisions. The threat of terrorism and cyber attacks will continue," Obama said at the time.
"The combination of increased digital information and powerful computers gives intelligence agencies the chance to sift through bulk data that may include impending threats. But the government collection and storage of this data also gives a potential for abuse."