Senators Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, who serve on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called on Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, to clarify his statements that the surveillance programs disclosed through leaks over the past week have helped avert "dozens of terrorist attacks" in recent years.
Alexander testified yesterday that the collection of millions of Americans' phone records was "critical in corroborating" information gleaned through the PRISM program, without providing further information.
"We have not yet seen any evidence showing that the NSA's dragnet collection of Americans' phone records has produced any uniquely valuable intelligence. Gen. Alexander's testimony yesterday suggested that the NSA's bulk phone records collection program helped thwart 'dozens' of terrorist attacks, but all of the plots that he mentioned appear to have been identified using other collection methods. The public deserves a clear explanation," Udall and Wyden said. "We look forward to reviewing the analysis that the general has promised to provide showing how the intelligence community arrived at these numbers. In our view, a key measure of the effectiveness of the bulk collection program will be whether it provided any intelligence that couldn't be obtained through other methods."
Udall and Wyden questioned assertions last week that the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' phone records "has actually provided any uniquely valuable intelligence" beyond what is available through other, less intrusive surveillance programs: "As far as we can see, all of the useful information that it has provided appears to have also been available through other collection methods that do not violate the privacy of law-abiding Americans in the way that the Patriot Act collection does. We hope that President Obama will probe the basis for these assertions, as we have."