The disclosure comes as a sister program that collects Americans' phone records in bulk is set to end this month. Under a law enacted in June, known as the USA Freedom Act, the program will be replaced with a system in which the NSA can still gain access to the data to hunt for associates of terrorism suspects, but the bulk logs will stay in the hands of phone companies.
The newly disclosed information about the email records program is contained in a report by the NSA's inspector general that was obtained through a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act. One passage lists four reasons the NSA decided to end the email program and purge previously collected data. Three were redacted, but the fourth was uncensored. It said that "other authorities can satisfy certain foreign intelligence requirements" that the bulk email records program "had been designed to meet."