Obama was asked by a Reuters reporter whether the NSA’s domestic snooping has actually helped to thwart any terrorist attacks at all. Here was Obama’s answer:
What I’ve said in the past continues to be the case, which is that the NSA, in executing this program, believed, based on experiences from 9/11, that it was important for us to be able to track, if there was a phone number of a known terrorist outside of the United States calling into the United States, where that call might have gone and that having that data in one place and retained for a certain period of time allowed them to be confident in pursuing various investigations of terrorist threats.
In other words, no. He can’t think of any terrorist attacks that were foiled as a result of the NSA’s spying program, where every American’s online habits, emails, phone calls, text messages and involuntary webcam videos are piled into a giant dune of digital sand to be sifted through at Utah’s ginormous Data Center.
He can’t think of any, because there is no evidence of any. Earlier this summer, the NSA director Keith Alexander claimed that the NSA had foiled 50 some terrorist plots all because of their domestic snooping. At the time, Peter Bergen responded to this claim in a CNN article:
“Homegrown jihadist extremists have mounted 42 plots to conduct attacks within the United States since 2001. Of those plots, nine involved an actual terrorist act that was not prevented by any type of government action, such as the failed attempt by Faisal Shahzad to blow up a car bomb in Times Square on May 1, 2010. Of the remaining 33 plots, the public record shows that at least 29 were uncovered by traditional law enforcement methods, such as the use of informants, reliance on community tips about suspicious activity and other standard policing practices.”
That leaves about 4.
But even that’s a liberal estimate. Breitbart referred to Geoffrey Stone, “who served on the presidential task force charged with reviewing NSA programs.” He “told NBC News that the task force tried to find a single incident that would justify the NSA’s actions, but ‘found none.’” According to their final report:
Our review suggests that the information contributed to terrorist investigations by the use of section 215 telephony meta-data was not essential to preventing attacks and could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional section 215 orders.
So, the NSA, with all its size and cost in liberty and federal reserve notes hasn’t actually done anything. Unless of course, its stated purpose is not its real purpose.