- Gentlemen, start your drones: Judge’s ruling opens door for commercial use
- Soldier who hid, bragged about not saluting flag to be punished — in secret
- ‘Maverick’ of the seas: ‘Top Gun’ school for U.S. ship officers to launch
- Putin declares Sochi Paralympics open amid Ukrainian protest
- ‘In Jesus name, we pray’ sparks ire at Ohio council meeting
- Navy’s first laser weapon ready for prime time; drone killer to deploy this summer
- Billionaire backer: Rick Santorum ‘needs to be heard’ in 2016
- Obamacare fallout: 49 percent pessimistic; 45 percent ‘scared’
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
- Seattle socialist: Minimum-wage discussion skewed by ‘right-wing’ GAO analysis
NSA chief’s admission of misleading numbers adds to Obama administration blunders
The Obama administration’s credibility on intelligence suffered another blow Wednesday as the chief of the National Security Agency admitted that officials put out numbers that vastly overstated the counterterrorism successes of the government’s warrantless bulk collection of all Americans’ phone records.
Pressed by the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at an oversight hearing, Gen. Keith B. Alexander admitted that the number of terrorist plots foiled by the NSA’s huge database of every phone call made in or to America was only one or perhaps two — far smaller than the 54 originally claimed by the administration.
Gen. Alexander and other intelligence chiefs have pleaded with lawmakers not to shut down the bulk collection of U.S. phone records despite growing unease about government overreach in the program, which was revealed in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
“There is no evidence that [bulk] phone records collection helped to thwart dozens or even several terrorist plots,” Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and committee chairman, told Gen. Alexander of the 54 cases that administration officials — including the general himself — have cited as the fruit of the NSA’s domestic snooping.
“These weren’t all plots and they weren’t all foiled,” he said.
Mr. Leahy and Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and author of the USA Patriot Act, which the government says allows bulk data collection, are working on a bill to roll back that authority.
In a summary they floated to colleagues Wednesday, the men said they would end bulk collection and require the NSA to show that the data it is seeking are relevant to an authorized investigation and involve a foreign agent.
The two lawmakers also proposed a special advocacy office with appellate powers to be part of the proceedings in the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and requiring the court to release secret opinions that lay out major interpretations of law.
“Yes,” Gen. Alexander replied in a departure from normal practice.
Administration officials giving testimony to Congress, even when asked to confine themselves to a simple yes or no, rarely do.
In response to a follow-up question, Gen. Alexander also acknowledged that only one or perhaps two of even those 13 cases had been foiled with help from the NSA’s vast phone records database. The database contains so-called metadata — the numbers dialing and dialed, time and duration of call — for every phone call made in or to the U.S.
Director of National IntelligenceJames R. Clapper denied that the number of plots foiled should be the sole metric by which the success of the program is measured. “I think there’s another metric here that’s very important. … I would call it the ‘peace of mind’ metric.”
He explained that the agency also could use the database to satisfy itself that global terrorists abroad did not have connections or associates in the U.S., and that attackers like those at the Boston Marathon were not part of a wider international plot.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...
- Senator's memo shows Iran links in Homeland Security's troubled immigration program
- Help wanted: Homeland Security plagued by vacancies at the top
- Dems back bill to fix problems in investor visa program
- Democrats proceed with Mayorkas vote despite pending investigation
- Game players don't think peace has a chance in Syria
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
- CPAC 2014: Rand Paul urges conservatives to fight for liberty
- Putin has transformed Russian army into a lean, mean fighting machine
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- Two liberals say Sarah Palin is right: Obama lacks substance
- Unemployment insurance vote could happen next week
- Bill Clinton cashes in on struggling nonprofit hospital
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- WEBER: Obamacare cuts home healthcare for millions of seniors
- Russias Putin nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again