Jefferson Morley | March 5, 2019
Was Snowden Right? Disputed NSA Phone Program Is Shut Down
In June 2013, NSA network administrator Edward Snowden gave Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian internal documentation of a surveillance system that analyzes logs of Americans’ domestic calls and texts in the search for suspected terrorists.
Now, a senior Capitol Hill Republican staffer says NSA has discontinued the program and the Trump administration might not ask Congress to renew its legal authority.
From The New York Times:
The disclosure that the program has apparently been shut down for months “changes the entire landscape of the debate,” said Daniel Schuman, the policy director of Demand Progress, an advocacy group that focuses on civil liberties and government accountability. Since “the sky hasn’t fallen” without the program, he said, the intelligence community must make the case that reviving it is necessary — if, indeed, the National Security Agency thinks it is worth the effort to keep trying to make it work.”
The Times story make two key points:
The phone records program had never thwarted a terrorist attack, a fact that emerged during the post-Snowden debate.
Yet the scale of collection remained huge:
The program gathered 151 million records in 2016, despite obtaining court orders to use the system on only 42 terrorism suspects in 2016, along with a few left over from late 2015. In 2017, it obtained orders for 40 targets and collected 534 million records.
Did this massive and potentially dangerous invasion of privacy make Americans safer? There’s no evidence of that, as NSA finally seems to recognize.