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NSA Still Figuring Out How Many Attacks Have Been Stopped by Phone Records

Agency director to critical senators: "I do think what we're doing does protect American civil liberties and privacy."

by
Bridget Johnson

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June 12, 2013 - 7:49 pm
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WASHINGTON — A Democratic chairwoman tried in vain to steer a hearing on cybersecurity today away from questions about the NSA scandal as even members of her own party were determined to keep the spotlight on surveillance programs as the agency director sat at the witness table.

In open session, National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander tried to reassure the Senate Appropriations Committee that leaker Edward Snowden overstated the capabilities of the surveillance programs and that the NSA was following the letter of the law.

Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) chided senators in her opening statement to stay on topic. “I understand that these are issues that are very much on the public’s mind and members of the Senate,” she said. “…That’s not today. That’s for another day.”

The first to defy her request was senior Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

“I’ve had a lot of concern about Section 215 of the Patriot Act, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance, FISA,” Leahy said. “We’ve had a number of comments and proposals in the Judiciary Committee to improve these provisions. But the intelligence community has told us that we obviously don’t have the ability as simple senators to know anything as well as you do, and so they do not need changes, and told they’re critical to our counterterrorism efforts.”

“I think that there should be sunset provisions and we should look at them periodically, and we should actually debate them in a free and open society.”

Saying he wouldn’t go into “whether he contradicted himself in a couple of answers,” Leahy hinted at Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s March testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in which he told senators that the NSA did “not wittingly” collect data on millions of Americans.

“Has the intelligence community kept track of how many times phone records obtained through section 215 of the Patriot Act were critical to the discovery and disruption of terrorist threats?” the senator asked the NSA chief.

Alexander said he hopes to get those figures within the next week. Leahy noted he couldn’t answer that question for the Intelligence Committee in a briefing yesterday.

“It’s dozens of terrorist events that these have helped prevent, from my perspective,” Alexander said.

“Out of those millions, dozens have been critical?” Leahy said in reference to the volume of phone records being tracked.

“Tomorrow I’ll give as clear as we have, vetted, precisely what we’ve done on each of those,” Alexander said.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has called Snowden a “traitor,” scheduled a closed-door briefing in the Senate Visitors Center tomorrow so that all senators can participate.

“And the reason that I’m — I want to get this exactly right, senator, is I want the American people to know that we’re being transparent in here,” Alexander continued, quipping that he didn’t want to “get any kicks from behind me” from staffers feeling rushed to compile the report.

The NSA director said he wants to walk through the Boston Marathon bombings with senators to give the perspective of “what we could not do.”

“What the FBI could have done was to have passed on the information to the Boston authorities. They said they did not. That might have been helpful, too,” Leahy responded.

Clapper said this week that he found it “a little ironic that in — several weeks ago, after the Boston bombings, we were accused of not being sufficiently intrusive.”

“We are supposed — we were — we didn’t — we failed to determine the exact tipping point when the brothers self-radicalized. And then it was, we weren’t intrusive enough,” Clapper said. “I don’t mean to be a smart guy here. It’s just that this is emblematic of the serious debate that goes on in this country between the two poles of security and civil liberties and privacy.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) thanked Mikulski for bringing cybersecurity “into sharp focus” before promptly veering to the topic of Snowden.

“I trusted, and I still do, that we were hiring the very best, trusting them to not only give us their best in terms of knowledge, but also their loyalty to our country,” Durbin said before rattling off Snowden’s bio as a high school and community college dropout who took a job as a security guard at the NSA in Maryland.

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Top Rated Comments   
So, let's recap:
1. The Russians warn us directly and well in advance about the people who blew up the marathon. And we did nothing.
2. We very specifically avoid looking at who the terrorirsts are or where they gather:
http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/061213-659753-all-intrusive-obama-terror-dragnet-excludes-mosques.htm
3. But universal monitoring of EVERYONE ELSE'S communications is going to magically save us.

Pure government BS.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
If they have to 'think about it' the answer is obvious. None.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Is he seriously saying NSA could have stopped the Boston bombings but didn't because of some wall? I don't believe a word they say any more.

It happened because the FBI ignored warnings from Russia and suspicious behavior! PC caused the bombing, not lack of electronic surveillance.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (26)
All Comments   (26)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
"Clapper said this week that he found it “a little ironic that in — several weeks ago, after the Boston bombings, we were accused of not being sufficiently intrusive.”
The problem was not being insufficiently intrusive, but being insufficiantly intrusive against the RIGHT people, radical jihadist islamicists, for fear of being accused of muslim profiling, and trying to make up for that by being overly intrusively against everybody else. It reminds me of the TSA.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Re: U.S. Government corrupt employees committing despotism, discrimination, targeting, fraud, kick-backs, nepotism, etc. - So far we have the IRS, Freedom of the Press DOJ snooping, Benghazi, NSA data-mining, ObamaCare (strong-arm no-choice health insurance with fines), National Guard spending thirty-million for sponsorships on wrestling and NASCAR events, government employees paid sex scandal and a host of other government departments’ corruption activities, etc.

NSA data-mining director Alexander said it helped prevent dozens of terrorist events… Well, prove your statement to the American people and show & tell us about WHO, WHAT and WHERE; and name the trial dates and convictions of the terrorists that you caught from this data-mining. Terrorist aren’t that dumb; I would think that they would use throw-away phones, cb-radios, pay-phones, borrowed and/or stolen computers and other stolen equipment, hacking router software, etc.; besides stealing peoples identity information to carry out their meaningless lowlife activities.

NSA says that they are only interested in foreign phone calls incoming to the USA. Well, Wall Street alone must get millions of foreign phone calls daily during Stock Exchange hours from investors. Are we to believe that all of these foreign phone calls are being dissected and put through the FISA courts? Can you imagine the large amounts of money that is costing the taxpayer for this paranoid non-sense?

Understanding data-mining at these sites:

http://beforeitsnews.com/spies-and-intelligence/2013/06/anonymous-releases-private-nsa-documents-regarding-spying-2444842.html

http://pastebin.com/MPpT7xaf
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thirteen billion dollar NSA data-mining / overall surveillance is unconstitutional. It’s a way to steal trade secrets, inventions, creative ideas, scientific experiments and discoveries, future information about mergers that are in private discussion, advance information on securities before press releases, etc.; and this data-mining can be used for targeting, blackmail and identity-theft. Our U.S. Congress must stop all financing for this NSA data-mining / overall surveillance and shut this activity down immediately. All private contract bids must be investigated to learn the flow of money. The secret FISA courts must be abolished.

Corrupt government employees are using privacy Regulations and Unions to hide certain information from the public. Our U.S. Congress should vote on a new Bill to abolish these cover-up Regulations and Unions so that all investigations can move swiftly forward to get to the truth publicly. Also we must hire “mystery shoppers” to do surveillance on government employees besides having all their offices outfitted with surveillance cameras for Americans to view.

Americans would love to hear from thousands of government employee whistleblowers disclosures. Edward Snowden is a hero, a true patriot to our U.S. Constitution and its freedoms that it protects. It is obvious that many of our government employees have been using their jobs for substantial corruption throughout the years. It’s all about money and deranged power.

Policy is not law.
Opinion is not law.
Politics is not law.
Our U.S. Constitution and the freedoms that it protects is the law of this land, period.

U.S. Government employees whether elected, appointed or hired must cherish and abide our U.S. Constitution and the freedoms that it protects 100% percent. Anyone that presents an exempt to tread heavily on any freedom should be hung.

Take a stand against the IRS and other government corruption activities. The Tea Party Patriots is hosting an “Audit the IRS Rally” Wednesday, June 19, 2013 from Noon to 2pm at the West Lawn of US Capitol. Bring your voice.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
They've got a lot of data to wade through to come up with an answer larger than zero, but enough about the President.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Since Masques are off limits, that explains why they were blind to the Boston Marathon Bombers. But that Army Sergeant serving Chick-fil-A at his promotion party...no problem.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
So, let's recap:
1. The Russians warn us directly and well in advance about the people who blew up the marathon. And we did nothing.
2. We very specifically avoid looking at who the terrorirsts are or where they gather:
http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/061213-659753-all-intrusive-obama-terror-dragnet-excludes-mosques.htm
3. But universal monitoring of EVERYONE ELSE'S communications is going to magically save us.

Pure government BS.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
If they have to 'think about it' the answer is obvious. None.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Because, as we all know, a successful end will jusitify any means.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, and once we get THAT accepted, all we need to do is tweak our definition of "successful end" - just tweak it a bit, and a bit more, and then a bit more, and we have mission accomplished.

For too many, "successful end" is defined as "keep me saaaaafe!"

For others, "successful end" is defined as achieving Police State Amerika.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Given this administrations record on 'transparency', they need not bother to publish anything; I'd bet a whole bunch of obama-bucks it will not resemble the truth.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
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