By Robert Gehl, December 20, 2013.
It’s worth noting – often – that the bulk collection of Americans’ cellphone “metadata” by the NSA has thwarted precisely zero terrorist attacks.
For an agency tasked with the singular mission of finding and thwarting terrorism, this is a startling revelation.
So startling that a member of the White House’s own review panel of NSA surveillance, was genuinely surprised.
“It was, ‘Huh, hello? What are we doing here?’” said Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor, in an interview with NBC News. “The results were very thin.”
It made sense, to the NSA at least, to collect the metadata of all cellphone calls, Stone said, but it resulted in nothing. Stone is the only one on the advisory panel without terrorism experience.
Simply put, the panel said the program was “not preventing attacks.”
The report itself summarizes: “There has been no instance in which NSA could say with confidence that the outcome [of a terror investigation] would have been any different” without the program.
Earlier, US District Judge Richard Leon ruled the bulk collection program was unconstitutional, and agreed that the program was not working to stop imminent attacks.
The Obama administration balked at the analysis of both the judge and his own panel.
“The president does still believe and knows that this program is an important piece of the overall efforts that we engage in to combat threats against the lives of American citizens and threats to our overall national security,” Press Secretary Jay Carney said.