At the end of this week President Obama is expected to finally answer the mounting calls to curtail the NSA's bloated power to invade its citizens' privacy by spying on millions of Americans' communications. But the president is going to have a hard time falling back on the old standby explanation that massive data collection is a necessary evil to protect the country from terrorism.
A new analysis of terrorism charges in the US found that the NSA's dragnet domestic surveillance "had no discernible impact" on preventing terrorist acts. Instead, the majority of threats over the last decade were detected by regular old intelligence and law enforcement methods—tips, informants, CIA and FBI ops, routine law enforcement.
The nonprofit think tank New America Foundation published a report today after investigating the 227 Al Qaeda-affiliated people or groups that have been charged for committing an act of terrorism in the US since 9/11. It found just 17 of the cases were credited to NSA surveillance, and just one conviction came out of the government's extra-controversial practice of spying on its own citizens. And that charge, against San Diego cab driver Basaaly Moalin, was for sending money to a terrorist group in Somalia. There was no threat of an actual attack.