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NSA snooping fails to prevent terrorist attacks, watchdog group says

Published time: January 13, 2014 14:39
Edited time: January 14, 2014 09:19
Reuters / Aly Song

Reuters / Aly Song

Out of 225 terrorism cases on the territory of the United States since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NSA’s PRISM program did little to protect the nation from terrorism, according to a new study.

The bulk collection of metadata phone records by the National Security Agency “has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism,” according to a study by the New America Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit group.

Analysis revealed that much of the evidence it did find “could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional [court] orders.”

The study, to be released on Monday, echoes that of a White House-appointed study concluded last month that the NSA program “was not essential to preventing attacks.”

President Obama on Friday will deliver his recommendations on the program, which has turned into a political lightning rod.

John McCain, the Republican senator, has called for a congressional inquiry into America’s “broken” National Security Agency.

“There has been overreach, it seems to me,” he said. “Sometimes these agencies have done things just because they can. I think we need a select committee in Congress to go over this whole scenario, because it does overlap many committees.”

The NSA counterterrorism program, which amasses the call details – number called, time and length of the communications - of nearly every American, has come under harsh public and political scrutiny since former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, blew the whistle on the program last summer.

The backlash from the NSA revelations has been international in scale, with even close political allies of the United States enraged that their private communications were being scooped up in the vast intelligence net.

Intelligence officials, meanwhile, have argued on behalf of the program, saying it helps to unearth terrorist plots, giving what the Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, called the “peace of mind metric.”

Michael Morell, a former acting CIA director and a member of the panel, said the program “needs to be successful only once to be invaluable.” Incidentally, that was the exact number of cases the NSA program successfully intercepted.

Analysts at the New America Foundation said the massive collection of American citizens’ telephone metadata resulted in a single lead when it was discovered that Basaaly Moalin, a San Diego cabdriver who in 2007 and 2008 provided $8,500 to al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia.

The incident involved no risk of attack against the United States.

Moreover, according to the report, the FBI waited two full months to begin an investigation against Moalin, after being contacted by the NSA.

“The overall problem for US counterterrorism officials is not that they need vaster amounts of information from the bulk surveillance programs, but that they don’t sufficiently understand or widely share the information they already possess that was derived from conventional law enforcement and intelligence techniques,” the report said.

More than half of the cases were initiated as a result of traditional investigative methods, such as a family member providing a tip to the authorities. Other tools included the use of informants, community member or a suspicious-activity report.

Comments (20)


mergon 15.01.2014 10:48

Micro RF transmitter/receiver systems ,walk by a digital bin as in London and a scanner scans your phone ,it does not matter if its switched on or off .
Vehicle computers transmit you GPS data 24/7 along with a lot of other information they dont want you to know !
Been in a shop seen an rf security tag on an item ? it does not need any batteries when scanned at the exit it activate an alarm , apply this technology to phones cars and computers and they have a time line in the case of phones /computers they can have content via scanners at street level !


Regula 15.01.2014 09:01

Donating $8500 to al Shabaab - that is like paying voluntary US taxes since al Qaida is a US production - surely, that isn't a crime!


charlie miller 14.01.2014 11:55

of course they are not mass spying for our best interest they are doing it repress us and control us. we all live in the land of free that's not so free its time we all stand together as one and show these "From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics"

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