The US government, by its National Security Agency, retains records of each single phone call made by each single phone in the country as well as probably almost anything that travels over the internet. The oft-repeated rationale is that this type of bulk data collection has the power to prevent terrorist attacks as well as keep the US safe. However an analysis from the non-profit policy group New America Foundation, released today shows that NSA investigation programmes have been utilized to apprehend only 17 of the 225 people indicted with an act of terrorism in the US since 9/11. The report as well argues that the NSA's mass surveillance, which originated after the Al-Qaida attacks on the World Trade Center as well as Pentagon, would not even have assisted to prevent those attacks.
The key concern in the failure to prevent 9/11 was not an absence of information, the report assertions, however poor sharing of existing intelligence among the CIA and other government departments. One of the aircraft hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar, was previously known to the CIA after he joined an Al-Qaida summit in Malaysia in 2000. Although this, his name was not added to any watch lists as well as the FBI was never told about Mihdhar hence they could pursue him in the US.
In 2001, Mihdhar was allowable to land in Los Angeles, rented an apartment, acquire a driver's license, buy a car, open a bank account and take flight lessons all under his real name. He ultimately went on to help in the hijacking of American Airlines Flight 77, which was hovered into the Pentagon, killing 189 people.
"The United States government could and must have been alerted to Mihdhar's phone calls even deprived of the expanded authority to collect the telephone metadata of all Americans under Section 215," the report says, mentioning to the provision of the Patriot Act that permits for the mass collection of telephone metadata.
The NSA's dragnet may straight be detrimental to the task of catching terrorists. In September last year, previous NSA official William Binney held that the vast piles of new data gathered from mass surveillance can act as a distraction from the task at hand and which is finding as well as stopping people who pose a threat to the US. "What they are performance is making themselves dysfunctional by taking all this data," Binney told the Congress on Privacy as well as Surveillance, in Lausanne, Switzerland, as per to The Wall Street Journal.