FBI won’t discuss how shuttered NSA program would have affected San Bernardino investigation

FBI won’t discuss how shuttered NSA program would have affected San Bernardino investigation
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FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyGraham postpones Russia probe subpoena vote as tensions boil over GOP votes to give chairman authority to subpoena Obama officials GOP chairmen stake out turf in Obama-era probes MORE is declining to say whether the recent shuttering of a National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program that collected phone records on millions of Americans had any effect on the investigation into the suspects of this week’s San Bernardino, Calif., shooting.
 
"I won't answer, because we don't talk about the investigative techniques we use," Comey said Friday, according to the Associated Press. "I'm not going to characterize it."
 
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The government ended the NSA program, which collected call records on large swaths of the U.S. population, just days before the attack in San Bernardino, which is now being investigated as terrorism. 
 
The program collected and stored the phone metadata, not conversations, for up to five years. 
 
But that database became inaccessible to law enforcement last Saturday after Congress voted earlier this year to end the program — the result of a long push for reform after the secret program caused outrage after leaks by Edward Snowden. 
 
Law enforcement can still access call records from phone companies after receiving a warrant. The FCC mandates that providers store records for at least 18 months, and companies can store them for longer.  
 
More than scouring records after an attack, advocates of the program touted it as necessary to actually prevent terrorist attacks. But critics and privacy advocates have said there is scant evidence of any thwarted terrorist plot being traced directly back to the record collection. 
 
"This could only be an example of the failure of that program," American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Alex Abdo told the AP. 
 
But one GOP presidential candidate used the shooting as a call to reinstate the surveillance program. 
 
"Our law enforcement and intelligence professionals need access to this information," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a statement. "Failing to give them the tools they need to keep Americans safe is dangerous and irresponsible."
 
The two suspects behind Wednesday’s attack, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, were not on any government watch list, officials say. 
 
Evidence collected by the FBI after the couple was killed in a shootout with police suggests they were not connected to ISIS or any other network or local cell, Director James Comey said Friday.
 
— updated at 3:30 p.m.