Army general and National Security Agency (NSA) director Keith Alexander has claimed that the NSA spying measures have “thwarted dozens of terrorist attacks;” however, opponents contest the claim indicating there is no substantiation for them.
During a Senate hearing this week, Alexander offered little elaboration on his assertion that the spy programs implemented by the NSA were at all effective. Opponents of the NSA and the spy programs are questioning the efficacy of the seemingly fruitless acquisition of millions of phone records and computer data logs.
Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR.), who helped propose the FISC transparency bill, and Mark Udall (D-CO), who are both members of the Senate Select Committee of Intelligence, have brought Alexander’s statements into question. The two senators issued a statement saying that:
We have not yet seen any evidence showing that the NSA’s dragnet collection of Americans’ phone records has produced any uniquely valuable intelligence. Gen. Alexander’s testimony yesterday suggested that the NSA’s bulk phone records collection program helped thwart “dozens” of terrorist attacks, but all of the plots that he mentioned appear to have been identified using other collection methods.
As the hearing continued, the conversation shifted over to NSA leaker, Edward Snowden. Alexander claimed that Snowden had lied about his access privileges and was but a mere “system administrator who didn’t have visibility into the whole NSA network but could access key portions of it.”
This accusation came in the wake of Snowden’s interview with the South China Morning Post where Snowden claimed that he “sitting at [his] desk, had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president.” This claim is just as condemning as the one’s made by Alexander and Sens. Wyden and Udall.
Alexander and the NSA are now placed on the defensive with the American people wanting answers as to whether the intrusion of their privacy has produced and quantifiable protections. They now have the burden of substantiating its assertion, to the Intelligence Committee and the American people, that seizing millions of phone records is a working practice and they also have the burden of trying to discredit Snowden.
Snowden exposed confidential information, illuminating the NSA’s data collection practices. In the absence of concrete responses, the public is left to speculate about how effective the efforts of the agency are: prove the program’s effectiveness and prove Snowden’s alleged underling status, or withhold, remaining in the ever-growing poor favor of the American public.
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.