Much like the TSA, which has never caught a single terrorist, it turns out the NSA can’t claim a single concrete instance of foiling a terrorist attack. The Washington Post (not exactly an obscure outlet with a civil liberties agenda) reports:
National Security Agency defenders, including President Obama, continue to cite the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 when defending the program that scoops up domestic call records in bulk. But asked specifically, on Friday, if he could identify a time when that program stopped a similar attack, President Obama couldn’t. That’s because the program hasn’t prevented a second 9/11.
In fact, the President’s own task force responsible for reviewing NSA activities said “the group specifically looked for times when the program may have helped prevent a terrorist attack, but ‘found none.’”
At this point, it’s no exaggeration to say that voices from all three branches of government agree that the NSA is out of line and ineffective, a rare consensus on the side of individual liberty and the right to privacy. Joining the task force’s stance of disapproval, a judge just ruled that the NSA’s bulk data collection programs are likely unconstitutional (the dubious phrasing is because it’s not the final ruling). And while Rep. Justin Amash’s anti-NSA amendment failed this past summer, it lost by just 12 votes. Amash reports that the next vote will likely be a win for civil liberties advocates:
Actually, I’ve heard from many people about their votes next time, and one of the more prominent members of Congress who’s changed his mind on this is Chairman [of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell] Issa. As he’s learned more about it, he’s come to the conclusion that the NSA has to reform the way it operates.
Writing for Antiwar.com recently, John Glaser put it bluntly: “The big, scary terrorism argument for having an unwieldy and unconstitutional NSA surveillance apparatus has been slowly disintegrating since the start of Snowden’s leaks. This week was really the death knell.”
NSA whistle-blower Edwards Snowden recently announced “mission accomplished,” and after this latest round of reports, I cautiously believe he may be right. “All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,” Snowden said — but I’d suggest it’s more than fair to say he had in mind a conclusion he hoped the public would reach: That the NSA is not making us safer; that it’s playing fast and loose with the rule of law; and that these spying programs are making us massively less free.
The public has reached that conclusion. And just maybe, for once, our media and government are coming to agree.
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