Detailed Study Suggests NSA Rarely Useful In Stopping Terrorism
from the but-fear! dept
While we’ve already seen multiple detailed analyses of why the NSA’s bulk collection of email data under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act hasn’t been particularly helpful in stopping any real terrorist attacks on the US, there are still other NSA programs as well. The folks over at the New America Foundation have put out a detailed new report looking at whether any of the NSA’s programs have been effective. The report finds, exactly as everyone else has, that the Section 215 effort was only helpful in finding one guy who sent some money to Somalia. However, more importantly, it also looks at the other big NSA program, the one that comes under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act which includes (among other things) the PRISM program that got a lot of attention. Once again, the evidence of 702’s usefulness is fairly minimal. The report finds that it was used in less than 5% of investigations of people charged with terrorism since 9/11.
The full report looks at all 225 individuals who were either part of Al Qaeda or an associated group and charged with terrorism since 9/11. In looking over every plot they were involved in, you see that much more traditional means of catching terrorists were involved in almost every case. There are community/family tips, informants, other non-NSA intelligence, routine law enforcement, self-disclosed by publicizing his own extremist activity, “suspicious activity” reports… and of course, plots that weren’t actually prevented. There is, to be fair, a large number of plots where the discovery is from “unclear” means — and it’s entirely possible that some of those were discovered under the Section 702 programs. However, at the very least, this calls into question just how valuable either of these key NSA efforts really are.