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Friday, August 09, 2013

The most compelling NSA success story the agency could come up with

Closeup of jalopy taxi
Washington Post: He was a San Diego cab driver who fled Somalia as a teenager, winning asylum in the United States after he was wounded during fighting among warring tribes. Today, Basaaly Moalin, 36, is awaiting sentencing following his conviction on charges that he sent $8,500 to Somalia in support of the terrorist group al-Shabab.

Moalin’s prosecution, barely noticed when the case was in court, has suddenly come to the fore of a national debate about U.S. surveillance. Under pressure from Congress, senior intelligence officials have offered it as their primary example of the unique value of a National Security Agency program that collects tens of millions of phone records from Americans.

Officials have said that NSA surveillance tools have helped disrupt terrorist plots or identify suspects in 54 cases in the United States and overseas. In many of those cases, an agency program that targets the communication of foreigners, including e-mails, has proved critical.
Wow, sending a few grand to Somalia. Clearly, we’ve thwarted the next Osama Bin Laden.

"There’s no reason why NSA needed to have its own database containing the phone records of millions of innocent Americans in order to get the information related to Moalin," said Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), a Senate Intelligence Committee. "It could have just as easily gone directly to the phone companies with an individualized court order."

And what of the big intel break that resulted in the closure of US embassies throughout the middle east, Africa, and beyond? Wasn’t that supposed to be “the NSA program is proving its worth yet again?” Apparently not. Not according to the NSA, anyway. If you ask them, the big terrorist plot of the century foiled by the agency is a cab driver who basically answered a fundraising appeal. This just confirms my assertion that NSA domestic data collection had nothing to do with the embassy closures and pro-spying people who said otherwise were just plain lying.

If is the best and most compelling case the NSA can come up with to justify their massive data collection, I’d say the cost in privacy and civil liberties is definitely not worth the outcome.

[photo by emilydickinsonridesabmx]

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