Policy: Technology

Obama to end NSA mass collection program that wasn't working anyway

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,NSA,Ashe Schow,Surveillance,Technology

President Obama announced Friday that he would end the National Security Agency’s mass data collection program as it currently exists.

Instead, the NSA would no longer hold on to American’s phone records, but the federal government would still have access to those records whenever it wants.

Problem solved! Civil liberties protected!

At least the government won't continue to hold those records, because the data collection program wasn't doing anything to stop terrorism anyway, according to a recent study by the New America Foundation, a left-wing think tank in Washington.

New America analyzed 225 U.S. terrorism cases since September 11, 2001, and concluded that the NSA’s phone record collection program “has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism.”

The foundation's study confirmed the findings of Obama's NSA review panel, which also found that the collection program “was not essential to preventing attacks” and that whatever evidence it did uncover “could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional [court] orders.”

The study also found that the data collected by the NSA wasn’t sufficiently shared to assist other law enforcement officials in investigation.

“The overall problem for U.S. counterterrorism officials is not that they need vaster amounts of information from the bulk surveillance programs, but that they don’t sufficiently understand or widely share the information they already possess that was derived from conventional law enforcement and intelligence techniques,” the report said.

Obama was originally skeptical of programs that allowed the government to view Americans’ personal communications – when he was first running for president.

“[The Bush] administration acts like violating civil liberties is a way to enhance security,” Obama said in 2007. “It is not.”

But once in office, Obama did nothing to curb the NSA's ability to collect Americans' communications, and was apparently surprised by the extent of the NSA's power.

Even now, Obama’s NSA “reforms” are nothing more than shifting who holds the phone records. Instead of the NSA holding them, it is assumed that phone companies will be required to keep the records. And of course the government will still have access to those records whenever it wants.

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Ashe Schow

Commentary Writer
The Washington Examiner