Is the Obama administration distorting how many terrorist attacks are being stopped by the surveillance programs?

Ron Wyden claims the assertions about the benefits of collecting telephone calls is false.  From Politico:
. . . "There has been an effort by officials to exaggerate the effectiveness of the bulk phone records collection program by conflating it with the collection of Internet communications under section 702 of the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] statute. This collection, which involves th ePRISM computer system, has produced some information of real value," Wyden said in a speech to the Center for American Progress. "I won’t deny that this value exists. Meanwhile, I have not seen any indication that the bulk phone records program yielded any unique intelligence that was not also available to the government through less intrusive means.
. . . "The public was not just kept in the dark about the Patriot Act and other secret authorities. The public was actively misled," he said. 
The Oregon Democrat contended that the conflation of the phone-call tracking program, sometimes called Section 215, and the foreign web interception program, often called Section 702, fit this pattern of deliberate distortion. 
"When government officials refer to these programs collectively, and say that 'these programs' provided unique intelligence, without pointing out that one program is doing all the work and the other is basically just along for the ride, in my judgment that is also a misleading statement," Wyden said. . . .
On a strange note, liberal Democrat House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is taking credit for killing Rep. Justin Amash's amendment to limit telephone surveillance to those who the government has a reason to suspect.  From The Cable:
Ahead of the razor-thin 205-217 vote . . . Pelosi privately and aggressively lobbied wayward Democrats to torpedo the amendment, a Democratic committee aid with knowledge of the deliberations tells The Cable.   
"Pelosi had meetings and made a plea to vote against the amendment and that had a much bigger effect on swing Democratic votes against the amendment than anything Alexander had to say," said the source, keeping in mind concerted White House efforts to influence Congress by Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. "Had Pelosi not been as forceful as she had been, it's unlikely there would've been more Democrats for the amendment." . . .



Blogger Martin G. Schalz said...

How exactly does someone prove that something did not occur?

7/26/2013 1:27 PM  
Blogger FZ said...

Wydens heart may in the right places (if not his body, the Center for American Progress? ugh) but he is wrong.

First off it is not conflating the two or misleading to refer to Section 215 and the EPrism program as "these programs" because far from being "along for the ride", 215 helps support and give context to EPrism. They work together. For instance, if the Feds notice suspicious calls from the US to elsewhere and at the same time domestic call pattern changes as tracked by 215 change dramatically, it helps solidify that something (perhaps major) is going down and helps them pinpoint where to go to stop it.

Second, while the government may well get the Section 215 info from less "intrusive" means (although, I can't think of what they are, and Wyden does not elaborate) but the info itself is not always the only important factor, but how fast you can get it. It does no good to get info from the "less intrusive means" if by the time you get it you can't follow up on it or the terror attack has already been carried out.

7/26/2013 2:33 PM  

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