NSA Spent $100 Million to Spy On Us, Got One Lead

NSA Spent $100 Million to Spy On Us, Got One Lead February 27, 2020

A newly declassified report evaluating a program the NSA runs to track our phone calls and text messages finds that despite spending $100 million to spy on us, the program developed exactly one lead the FBI didn’t already know about and were already investigating. George Orwell, call your office.

Credit: Martin Leng

A National Security Agency system that analyzed logs of Americans’ domestic phone calls and text messages cost $100 million from 2015 to 2019, but yielded only a single significant investigation, according to a newly declassified study.

Moreover, only twice during that four-year period did the program generate unique information that the F.B.I. did not already possess, said the study, which was produced by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and briefed to Congress on Tuesday.

“Based on one report, F.B.I. vetted an individual, but, after vetting, determined that no further action was warranted,” the report said. “The second report provided unique information about a telephone number, previously known to U.S. authorities, which led to the opening of a foreign intelligence investigation.”

This is not the way we’re going to detect threats to our security, especially terrorism. That will be done by the painstaking day-to-day work of infiltrating organizations, tracking the flow of money and other useful tools. Sweeping up the phone calls and text messages of every law-abiding American citizen is exactly the wrong approach.


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