Report suggests NSA program has thwarted few terrorist plots

 

A report released Monday suggests a National Security Agency domestic surveillance program “has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism.”

The New America Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit, analyzed 225 terrorism cases in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, and says that the telephone metadata collection program has “only the most marginal of impacts on preventing terrorist-related activity.”

The NSA’s telephone metadata program, the report says, only helped initiate 1.8 percent of the cases reviewed. The agency’s programs monitoring foreign citizens outside the United States helped initiate 4.4 percent of those terrorism cases.

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The report says that President Obama, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander and even members of Congress, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), have charged that the program has helped stop and thwart at least 50 terrorist plots around the world.

Those claims, New America says, are “overblown and even misleading.”

In three terrorism cases, New America found government officials might have “exaggerated” the role of the NSA and the significance of threats, including one to blow up the New York Stock Exchange.

“The overall problem for U.S. 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 says.

Obama, meanwhile, discussed a report that examines the NSA’s reach with lawmakers last week. The White House also announced Obama will unveil reforms to the agency on Friday.