Intelligence Committee Members, Ron Paul Say NSA Figures were Incorrect

By on June 21, 2013

by Ali Papademetriou

It comes as no surprise that the intelligence community has strongly defended that the NSA’s surveillance program has worked hard to combat terrorism. Just recently, NSA Director General Keith Alexander testified alongside the Justice Department in a hearing by the House Intelligence Committee where he insisted that more than fifty terror plots have been intercepted due to the highly classified data collections.

In the 12 years since the attacks on Sept. 11, we have lived in relative safety and security as a nation. That security is a direct result of the intelligence community’s quiet efforts to better connect the dots and learn from the mistakes that permitted those attacks to occur on 9/11,” Alexander told the committee.

Interestingly though, two senators who sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee have made a public statement describing that the intelligence community has definitely inflated its usefulness. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and Colorado Senator Mark Udall explained that, “Over the past few days the Intelligence Community has made new assertions about the value of recently declassified NSA surveillance programs. In addition to the concerns that we have about the impact of large-scale collection on the civil liberties of ordinary Americans, we are also concerned that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Section 702 collection program (Which allows collection of phone or internet communications, and involves the PRISM computer system) and the bulk phone records collection program operating under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT ACT are being conflated in a way that exaggerates the value and usefulness of the bulk of phone records collection program.”

The senators analyzed that in accordance with what they have been exposed to, more than one terrorist plot, or at least parts of them, have been diverted thanks to section 702 of FISA. On the contrary, they say that the millions of phone records that the agency has collected under section 215 of the Patriot Act “played little or no role in most of these disruptions”.

Saying that “these programs” have disrupted “dozens of potential terrorist plots” is misleading if the bulk phone records collection program is actually providing little or no value,” Wyden and Udall explained in their statement.

They said that the Intelligence Community says that Section 215’s mass collection of phone records has stipulated new evidence in more than one terror case although Wyden and Udall do not understand why agencies involved in fighting terrorism don’t just get the information straight from the phone companies using a normal court order. They argue that if the NSA is just looking at records, which “meet a “reasonable suspicion” standard”, then there should be no reason why they can’t get a court order for the information that they actually need.

Making a few hundred of these requests per year would clearly not overwhelm the FISA Court. And the law already allows the government to issue emergency authorizations to get these records quickly in urgent circumstances,” the statement reads. They went on to write, “The NSA’s five-year retention period for phone records is longer than the retention period used by some phone companies,” before detailing that the NSA is yet to provide them with examples of occurrences when the agency used its “bulk collection authority to review records that the relevant phone company no longer possessed.”

Going into specificity, they wrote, “In fact, we have yet to see any evidence that the bulk phone records collection program has provided any otherwise unobtainable intelligence.” They explained that although it might be more convenient for the NSA to gather it all in bulk rather than to go directly to the phone companies, it is not acceptable for convenience to be a valid answer and that the process can and should be done using “less intrusive methods”.

If there is additional evidence for the usefulness of the bulk phone records collection program that we have not yet seen, we would welcome the opportunity to review it,” the senators concluded in their statement.

Senators Wyden and Udall are not the only ones to speak out and proclaim that they think the claims are being exaggerated. Liberty fighter and former Representative Ron Paul said he doesn’t buy what the Intelligence Committee hearing produced: the 50+ terror plots that the program intercepted through violating millions of Americans’ Fourth Amendment.

On Tuesday, Paul explained on Fox News, “I don’t really believe that because I think they fudged the figures. Of those 50 plots that they stopped, I think 40 were minor plots overseas, for all we know. So they stretched the point. And even these hearings today were a bit of a sham…because they had already decided what the results would be.” He went on to detail, “They have to try to justify their existence of destroying the freedom of and the privacy of the American citizens, otherwise they’re out of work.”

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