Study Finds NSA Is Not Saving Us From Terrorism

According to a Bloomberg story:

The nonprofit New America Foundation, based in Washington, analyzed cases involving 225 people recruited by al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups and charged in the U.S. since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The majority of cases started with traditional techniques, such as use of “informants, tips from local communities, and targeted intelligence operations,” according to a report today from the group, which has been critical of the NSA spy programs.

“Our investigation found that bulk collection of American phone metadata has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism and only the most marginal of impacts on preventing terrorist-related activity, such as fundraising for a terrorist group,” Peter Bergen, director of the foundation’s national security program, said in a statement.

The National Security Agency’s collection and use of bulk phone records, such as numbers dialed and call durations, is one of several surveillance programs exposed by former government contractor Edward Snowden. The disclosures have prompted calls both domestically and overseas for the U.S. to discontinue or alter the programs.

The problem with a story like this is that I have no idea about how objective the study is. Just because I happen to be prone to agree with the conclusion doesn’t mean it is true. As of yet, I haven’t had time to read it.

But the study does comport well with several things we have pointed out. For one thing, the NSA seems to be aimed at all kinds of spying and doesn’t show, in its various works, that it has any special focus on preventing terrorism. They seem as interested in spying on allies and/or committing industrial espionage as anything else.

Furthermore, they don’t seem to have any way of verifying that their employees are staying on task. Several were using NSA capabilities to stalk love interests, and the NSA knew nothing about it until these people confessed to their unauthorized activities.

This is not what you would expect from an organization that believes it is truly an important line of defense and believes that a terrorist attack is likely.

It will be interesting to see how the NSA defenders respond to this recent study.