January 13, 2014
A new study has concluded that the massive collection of phone data by the clandestine U.S. National Security Agency “has had no discernible impact” on preventing terrorism.
A Washington research group, the New America Foundation, said Monday it studied the investigations of 225 people linked in some way to terrorism in the United States since the deadly September 11th attacks and concluded NSA phone surveillance only played a key role in one instance.
The report said the only piece of NSA phone data that had a clear role in initiating an investigation involved a cab driver in San Diego, California, who was convicted of sending $8,500 to al-Qaida’s Somali affiliate in 2007 and 2008.
The New America Foundation said NSA surveillance may have played a role in other investigations, but about 60 percent of the probes stemmed from traditional investigative methods, such as tips from from a family member or informant, or a report of suspicious activity.
The report’s conclusion mirrors that of a White House-appointed review that concluded in December that the NSA’s collection of millions of records of calls made by Americans “was not essential to preventing attacks.”
© Collage: Voice of Russia
The study of 225 terrorism cases inside the US after 9/11, which is to be released Monday, corroborates the findings of a White House-appointed review group, which said last month that the NSA counterterrorism program “was not essential to preventing attacks” and that much of the evidence it did turn up “could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional [court] orders.”
NSA saves the record of numbers dialed and length of the call of every American. As the intelligence agency suggests, no calls’ content is collected. Then NSA analysts conclude whether the numbers were suspicious or not and it’s linked to a terrorist organization.
As the Washington Post reports, the researchers at the New America Foundation found that the program provided evidence to initiate only one case, involving a San Diego cabdriver, Basaaly Moalin, who was convicted of sending money to a terrorist group in Somalia. Three co-conspirators were also convicted. The cases involved no threat of attack against the United States.
“The overall problem for US counterterrorism officials is not that they need vaster amounts of information from the bulk surveillance programs, but that they don’t sufficiently understand or widely share the information they already possess that was derived from conventional law enforcement and intelligence techniques,” said the report, whose principal author is Peter Bergen, director of the foundation’s National Security Program and an expert on terrorism.
In most of the cases proved themselves much more effective. Traditional surveillance warrants obtained from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court were used to obtain evidence through intercepts of phone calls and e-mails, said the researchers, whose results are in an online database.
According to the publication, more than half of the cases were initiated as a result of traditional investigative tools. The most common was a community or family tip to the authorities. Other methods included the use of informants, a suspicious-activity report filed by a business or community member to the FBI, or information turned up in investigations of non-terrorism cases.
Yet, the New America Foundation suggests, it took more than two month after NSA transmitted the allegations to FBI, before the terrorism case was initiated.
Voice of Russia, the Washington Post