Independent government watchdog group says NSA phone data collection is illegal and ineffective


The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board have released a report in which they call the NSA phone data collection illegal and also ineffectual .

The report, which is 238-pages, says that there have been “minimal” gains from the NSA’s phone data collection program, which goes against what President Obama has recently said.

“We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation,” the report said, according to The Washington Post, who have received a copy. “Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”

“At its core, the approach boils down to the proposition that essentially all telephone records are relevant to essentially all international terrorism investigations,” the report continues. “At minimum, (it) is in deep tension with the statutory requirement that items obtained through a Section 215 order be sought for ‘an investigation,’ not for the purpose of enhancing the government’s counterterrorism capabilities generally.”

To be fair, two out of the five members on Oversight Board do not think that collection program is illegal, but they all agree on a series of recommendations in the report, which closely mirror the ones that President Obama outlined in his speech last week.

[via The Verge, The New York Times, The Washington Post, image via frederic.jacobs’ flickr]

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  • Mike S.

    [@Seamus McSeamus] Congress couldn’t do so, as it has gone along with this, explicitly or implicitly. And it’s not Pres. Obama doing this, it’s the Office of the U.S. President, going back to at least 9-11 with former President Bush, if not before.

    I think, at times, people just don’t have the energy to fight against the system, which just seems like a losing battle . . . . Leading to Snowden-like actions.

  • Seamus McSeamus

    [@Darcy] If Congress had any real teeth, Obama would be impeached and removed from office for this. However, we have a bunch in DC who are all bark, and the voters continue sending them back.

    I’m convinced that most people simply don’t care if they are spied upon. As long as they have their gadgets, their TV and a McDonald’s down the street, they simply aren’t concerned with what the government does. Even if that means their rights are violated.

  • “What we revealed is that this spying system is devoted not to terrorists, but is directed to innocent people around the world. None of this has anything to do with terrorism. Is Angela Merkel a terrorist?” – Glenn Greenwald to CNN’s Christian Amanpour, Oct. 28.

    “Why did we not know that heads of state were being eavesdropped on, spied on? We are the intelligence committee and we didn’t know that.” – Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) on Oct. 29.

    “The president overstepped his authority when he asked the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans’ international phone calls without obtaining a warrant.” – Sherrod Brown

    “There is no better illustration of that crisis than the fact that the president is openly violating our nation’s laws by authorizing the NSA to engage in warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens.” – John Conyers

    The N.S.A. is the single greatest threat to people in our government. I has too much power and not nearly enough accountability. I don’t agree with limiting their ability to spy, that’s counter-productive to our security. We must see that they are accountable for their actions and under control.

    “It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.” – David Brin