NSA phone surveillance program cost $100 million and yielded one major investigation: report


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Zack Budryk | The Hill | Source URL

A National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program that accessed American citizens' domestic phone calls and text messages resulted in only one investigation between 2015 and 2019 despite costing $100 million, a newly declassified study found.

The report, which was produced by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and briefed to Congress on Tuesday, also found that the program only yielded information the FBI did not already have on two occasions during that four-year period.

"Based on one report, F.B.I. vetted an individual, but, after vetting, determined that no further action was warranted," the report said, according to The New York Times. "The second report provided unique information about a telephone number, previously known to U.S. authorities, which led to the opening of a foreign intelligence investigation."

The report contains no further details of the investigation in question or its outcome. The USA Freedom Act of 2015, the law that authorized the program, is set to expire March 15, but the Trump administration has asked Congress to extend it.

The House Judiciary Committee is set to consider a bill that would end the program's authorization on Wednesday. 

The NSA's decision last year to suspend the program "shows a lot of judgment to acknowledge that something that consumed a lot of resources and time did not yield the value anticipated," Adam I. Klein, chairman of the board, which was established on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, told the Times.

"We want agencies to be able to reflect on their collection capabilities and wind them down where appropriate. That's the best way to ensure civil liberties and privacy are balanced with operational needs," he added.

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