One of the five panelists the White House tasked with reviewing the National Security Agency for privacy violations has made a stunning proclamation.
White House advisor Geoffrey Stone said he found no evidence the NSA‘s controversial bulk metadata collection program, which stores practically all Americans’ phone records, actually stopped any terrorist attacks.
Stone told NBC news that he deliberately searched for evidence of “any [terror attacks] that might have been really big,” but “found none.”
“It was, ‘Huh, hello? What are we doing here?’” he added. “The results were very thin.”
Stone went in a skeptic. The White House was initially criticized for not including technologists or privacy advocates on his panel, which officially concluded its investigation Sunday. In an editorial written for the Huffington Post in the immediate aftermath of NSA contractor Edward Snowden‘s decision to leak the existence of that program, Stone himself said that Snowden was “most certainly a criminal who deserves serious punishment.”
The claim that the bulk phone metadata collection program isn’t crucial for stopping terrorism directly contradicts claims made by the intelligence community. NSA Director Keith Alexander has repeatedly claimed that that program and another, called PRISM, has provided intelligence that helped prevent more than 50 terrorist attacks since 9/11. And a controversial interview with 60 Minutes, Alexander indicated that had the bulk metadata collection program been in place at the time, it could have stopped 9/11 itself.
The White House’s panel did conclude that the NSA should no longer store the bulk records of all Americans’ data, though that doesn’t mean such information wouldn’t still exist. Instead, it would either be held by a nonprofit or by individual phone companies.
An NSA representative contacted by the Daily Dot referred to the White House, which in turn referred to comments made Thursday by press secretary Jay Carney, who said “I don’t have an assessment for every line in the review group’s report, but we do believe that the program is important tool.” Obama is expected to address the panel’s findings in January.
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