In a Senate hearing today in Washington, Senators grilled National Security Agency Deputy Director John Inglis over the revelations provided by leaker Edward Snowden about the agency's practices. This followed not only revelations on the NSA's internet practices, particularly the use of XKeyscore, but also the Obama adminstration's release of previously-classified documents regarding the transfer of phone records to the government by Verizon. On top of this, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper also declassified several documents related to the government's phone data program.
However, in such a grilling, several things were revealed that will likely sow further distrust among Americans. When pressed by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Inglis admitted that the NSA collected phone records in bulk of American citizens. Leahy further questioned the legitimacy of the spying operation when he noted that, despite claims made by NSA Director General Keith Alexander that 54 terror plots had been prevented through the phone spying operation, the literature the NSA supplied did not support that information. Inglis then admitted that the phone records operation helped in the discovery of 13 domestic terror plots, but was only critical in stopping a single terror plot: That of a suicide bombing plot in the New York Subway in September 2009.
A single plot. A single plot. Honestly, what good is a collection system like the NSA's if it is only able to stop one plot out of dozens? What's the point, really? The Boston Marathon bombing from earlier this year was certainly not stopped by phone record analysis, that is for certain. Why bother wasting so much time, money, and effort into this white elephant, when the agency has little use for it in the first place? It is incredibly inefficient, and scares a lot of Americans unnecessarily because the "national security" canard does not hold up when such a program can stop only one terror plot. It is so useless, because what good can you do with phone records anyway these days? One can code their words, use encryption, other means of communication to hide what they're saying, if they were really smart about it, which they probably are doing anyway. So instead, we get police officers armed in military gear raiding houses because the people inside Googled "pressure cookers" and "backpacks," and we don't not feel any safer.
(Image Source: Reuters)