The NSA's controversial spying activities have prevented more than 50 terror attacks since 9/11, the agency's director told the House Intelligence Committee today, including attempted bombings of the New York Stock Exchange and, as previously disclosed, the New York City Subway. Gen. Keith Alexander said he'd go over all 50 cases with Congress, but wouldn't release the information to the public because it would give away NSA secrets. More from the hearing, courtesy of Politico and CNN's liveblog.
- Alexander said 90% of those cases were disrupted by the PRISM web spying program.
- The NSA said that while it has assembled a massive database of call tracking information, it has targeted fewer than 300 numbers or other "identifiers" within it.
- Deputy Attorney General James Cole stressed that the NSA must get permission from the secret FISA court to access phone data, and must have evidence linking their target to a terrorist organization. "This is not a program that's off the books that's been hidden away," Cole said.
- But Cole also said that the Fourth Amendment didn't apply to phone records, and that people shouldn't expect privacy for them.
- NSA Deputy Director Chris Inglis said that just 22 people at the NSA are authorized to query the phone database.
- Alexander said the NSA has neither the legal authority nor technical ability to "flip a switch" and listen to a phone conversation.
- The NSA brass wasn't exactly facing an inquisition. Committee Chairman Mike Rogers painted the NSA as a victim of "a constant public drumbeat" accusing it of a "laundry list of nefarious things … all of them wrong." He said public trust was waning thanks to "inaccuracies, half-truths, and outright lies."
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