Thanks to a certain ex-U.S. government employee currently residing in Russia, the world has now been exposed to just how much snooping has been going on over at the NSA. Spoiler alert: it's a lot. Everything from your online activity to your phone records and even your World of Warcraft chat logs are likely in the hands of the government. New analysis of the NSA's half-crazed quest for your every data point has revealed just what benefit all this effort has garnered the government in the "war on terror."
The analysis was carried out at the New America Foundation, a non-partisan think tank based out of Washington, D.C. and New York City. The group looked into 227 cases of individuals charged in the U.S. with terrorism since 9/11. Two of these were never investigated, leaving the New America Foundation with 225 cases to sift through. At the end of their investigation, the group found that only four individuals, 1.8 percent of the total study, had been investigated under the authority of Section 215's bulk surveillance program. In total, it turned out that only 7.5 percent of the terrorism suspects were investigated by the NSA.
Yes, you can say that these individuals were captured and lives may very well have been saved thanks to the violation of our rights as U.S. citizens, but the study also showed that 5.3 percent of these terrorist plots were actually carried out before the suspects were captured, meaning that Section 215 failed to dig up three times the number of individuals that it caught. Even more worrisome, there were three cases in which the NSA captured terror suspects under absolutely no known authority whatsoever. You can view the case-by-case breakdown here.
In a statement put out by the New America Foundation after its study was completed, the group noted that "Surveillance of American phone metadata has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism and only the most marginal of impacts on preventing terrorist-related activity, such as fundraising for a terrorist group." They also went on to note that, far from needing more information on each American citizen out there, the NSA would better benefit from properly handling the tips sent to their offices by conventional law enforcement. We can hope that the study shows the NSA the error of its ways of late, but when you're dealing with Big Brother, its always good to be a little wary.