Thank You, Ron Wyden
Oversight, what a concept:
"When you're talking about important liberties that the American people feel strongly about, and you want to have an intelligence program, you've got to make a case for why it provides unique value to the [intelligence] community atop what they can already have," Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, told the Guardian in an interview on Thursday.
Alexander testified before the Senate appropriations committee that maintaining a database of millions of Americans' phone records was critical to thwarting "dozens" of plots. One of the examples Alexander mentioned, the case of would-be New York subway bomber Najibullah Zazi, appears to have been prevented by conventional police surveillance, including efforts by UK investigators.
"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," Wyden and Udall said in a statement. "The public deserves a clear explanation."
Alexander testified that the efficacy of the phone-records program could not be independently analysed from that of another NSA program disclosed by the Guardian, an effort called Prism that monitors the internet communications of people believed to be outside the US. In an interview with the Guardian, Wyden challenged that assertion as well.
"I have real reservations that the argument that they can't be evaluated separately," Wyden said. "If a program provides unique value, the people running it ought to explain it. I'm certainly open to doing that in a classified setting, and I know of a program where they haven't done it."