NSA Claims Surveillance Programs Aided The Stopping Of 50 Attacks; Details Lacking

from the obfuscate,-obfuscate,-obfuscate dept

In a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee today, NSA boss Keith Alexander once again claimed that the big NSA surveillance programs had stopped terrorist attacks. Rather than the “dozens” he stated last week, today it became “more than 50 potential terrorist events.” Of course, as is typical, both the questions (asked by NSA supporters) and the answers were pretty carefully choreographed. Digging in, you find out that Alexander was specifically referring to PRISM, and not the (much more worrisome) dragnet of all phone records. On that program, there doesn’t appear to be any actual data on what it was used for. On top of that, when asked about whether or not these programs were essential or necessary to stopping those attacks, as compared to other programs, no one would say that they were necessary or essential.

The other careful choice of words was people would ask about whether or not phone calls had been recorded under these particular programs, but not other programs. When Deputy Attorney General James Cole was specifically asked about other programs, he responded that that was classified information. Make of that what you will. Cole also claimed that the program to collect all phone numbers “is not a program that’s off the books, that’s been hidden away.” Of course, if that were true, why are so many people — including politicians who supposedly have oversight over the program — so surprised about it? How come there has been no reporting on it? How come, when asked about it, Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper said “no” to whether or not information was collected on millions of Americans? It certainly sounds “hidden away.”

Meanwhile, the really shameful performance came from Rep. Mike Rogers, who led the hearing, who again claimed that Ed Snowden both was lying and that his revelations weakened American security by revealing secrets to enemies. And then he pulled out this whopper:

“It is at times like these when our enemies within become almost as damaging as the enemies on the outside. It is critically important to protect sources and methods so we aren’t giving the enemy our playbook.”

So, again, no one understands the programs revealed, because Snowden’s leaked info is wrong… and now our enemies know what we’re doing… and Snowden is “almost as damaging” as those who wish to attack us. None of that makes any sense at all.

In the end, though, it’s more of the same. Even if we could say that these programs were useful in stopping a potential attack, what we don’t know is if the program was necessary to do so. We don’t know what sort of collateral damage was caused. We don’t know if traditional methods of investigation would have worked just as well, with no violations of privacy for Americans. We’re just being told on faith to “trust the NSA.”

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Comments on “NSA Claims Surveillance Programs Aided The Stopping Of 50 Attacks; Details Lacking”

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Loki says:

Re: Re:

I was going to say the same thing. FBI creates fake plots, waits for NSA to ferret them out (or leak enough info for NSA to do so if plot is to close to fruition) before swooping in for the kill. Then they can slap each other on the back for a job well done, and report to everyone else how “important” and “necessary” their work is.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They also already said it was in 20 countries around the world, so we have no idea if any of them had anything to do with US national security.

They also have not given us any information about how feasible or destructive any of these attacks could have been. Have they stopped 50 nuclear bombs from going off, or prevented 50 shoe bombers from getting far enough into an airport to get manhandled by the TSA?

Rapnel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

No. But it would definitely make me stop and think about what wonderful things government would do next.

We send thousands of soldiers to their deaths and dismemberment and mental fracturing in order to defend our freedoms and yet we’d have a problem when people could be murdered living those same freedoms? Both would be unfortunate endings to otherwise fruitful lives yet we would condemn ourselves to dust based upon a fictional trust?

These are not the freedoms people die for – These are the freedoms you’re allowed to live with.

Anonymous Coward says:

Confidence in House oversight?

For those of you (us) who watched this hearing? As a result of watching, was your confidence in the House Intelligence Committee’s oversight increased, decreased or unaffected?

I saw sharper questioning in recent hearings before both Senate Appropriations and House Judiciary.

This hearing, in contrast, looked to me like it was at least partially intended as a PR exercise, to build up confidence among the public. Of course, the HPSCI members do get classified briefings?maybe they reserve their sharpest questions for the closed sessions.

btrussell (profile) says:

Re: Re:

We don’t want to block it. We wish to see how long it takes for someone who was caught cheating on his exam to actually get a job.

Shall we discuss the merits of my assertion that you were caught cheating on your exam?

*You are here all day everyday, obviously you have nothing better to do.

*You infringe on copyright yet call everyone else “pirates.”

*You promise to leave the blog for a year if Mike would engage you. Mike did yet you are still here.

You don’t have any merit therefore merits cannot be discussed with you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

It’s funny because Mike has answered the troll’s questions on many occasions, then came to the conclusion that the answers would just be ignored unless the troll was given the answer they were looking for. Since they refuse to acknowledge Mike’s answers and spam the site with this nonsense there is no reason to even acknowledge their posts. Just report and move on.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: What's next....

This. Look what they’ve done with the term “weapons of mass destruction”. Originally, the term referred only to weapons actually capable of mass destruction — of which there was really only one: nuclear bombs.

Then they started including biological and chemical weapons in the category. You might be able to make the case for certain biological weapons (certainly not anthrax, though), but not chemical weapons.

Now, apparently, a WMD means anything that can kill more than three people at a time, or anything that explodes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Again we see politicians dancing. Probably? Might have? So far what has been claimed to have been stopped has been incorrect. So now we have the fine tooth comb going through the records just in hopes something can be found to show worth. This reminds me of the TSA who has spent all sorts of money for show theater and has yet to yield forth one honest and real terrorist.

Of course the NSA sees things as slightly crooked compared to the average person who has far less paranoia. What I don’t see is claims that the recent Boston Bombing brothers, which Russia warned them of with much time to actually deal with it and dropped the ball. All this information gathering and spying did not aid in any manner the apprehension to prevent such an act from occurring.

Again, politicians are dancing around but not really addressing the topic at hand with the unvarnished truth.

Ben (profile) says:

I trust them!

We’re just being told on faith to “trust the NSA.”

I trust them. Of course I trust them. I trust them to ignore the laws of the land and just do what they want to do “for the greater good” (for rather oddly defined values of “good”). But trust does not equate to respect or even ambivalence; trust is that you feel confident in knowing what choices they’ll make.

Mr. Applegate says:

NSA Transcript - fresh off the press.

…Beta: Chocolate, I smell chocolate!

Gamma: I’m getting prunes and denture cream! Who are they?

Beta: Oh, man, Master will not be pleased. We better tell him someone took the bird. Right, Alpha?

Alpha: [in a squeaky voice] No. Soon enough the bird will be ours yet again. Find the scent, my compadres, and you too shall have much rewardings from Master for the toil factor you wage.

Beta: Hey, Alpha, I think there’s something wrong with your collar. You must have bumped it.

Gamma: Yeah, your voice sounds funny!
[they both laugh]

Alpha: Beta! Gamma!
[they both stop laughing]

Alpha: Mayhaps you desire to – SQUIRREL!
[All of them turn their attention to a nearby tree; slight pause, Gamma whimpers]

Alpha: Mayhaps you desire to challenge the ranking that I have been asigned by my strength and cunning…

Beta: No, no, no. But maybe Dug would. You might wanna ask him.

Gamma: Yeah. I wonder if he’s found the bird on his very special mission.

Alpha: Do not mention Dug to me at this time. His fool’s errand will keep him most occupied. Most occupied, indeed. Ha ha ha! Do you not agree with that which I am saying to you now?

Beta: Sure, but the second Master finds out you sent Dug out by himself, none of us will get a treat.
[He and Gamma whine]

Alpha: [lunges and growls at them] You are wise, my trusted lieutenant. …

And now you know exactly what your tax dollars get you and just how ‘successful’ they are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Here’s a question. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that PRISM did, in fact, prevent terrorist attacks.
Even if that was the case, the only reason it (hypothetically) worked was because the terrorists, like the American public, were unaware that their every action was being recorded for future reference.
Given that PRISM is now publicly known, how can its continued existence be justified? “It stopped terrorist attacks in the past” is insufficient, because now terrorists know to avoid being monitored by it.

Offhand, I’d say the NSA is due for massive budget cuts. They’re clearly overfunded and desperate to remain that way. The NSA’s budget is classified (of course), but a bit of searching shows that it was around $8 billion in 2008, with a few pundits estimating it to currently be at least $10 billion. $5 billion would probably be more appropriate.

Anonymous Coward says:

See the post that over 200 people on TD have seen. See the post that mike desperately doesn’t want anyone to see. He’s so desperate to hide this that he’s blocking IPs, keywords, titles, and links.

Mike hates this post so much that he’s going out of his way to censor it: http://tr.im/44w44

the next edition will be out very soon.

How hard will he work to hide that from you too?

Anonymous Coward says:

I thought it was only one, then it was a dozen across multiple countries and now it’s 50. Keep ramping up those numbers because it doesn’t matter if it’s 1,000 a year, you’re still dealing with a lower number than people drowning in their swimming poos each year and you use this as a reason to violate my 4th amendment rights. Fuck you and your reasoning.

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