Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Mass surveillance was a waste of money

From 2015 to 2019 the NSA ran a program of mass surveillance of Americans' domestic communications. It was intrusive, totalitarian, and a collosal waste of money:

A National Security Agency system that analyzed logs of Americans’ domestic phone calls and text messages cost $100 million from 2015 to 2019, but yielded only a single significant investigation, according to a newly declassified study.

Moreover, only twice during that four-year period did the program generate unique information that the F.B.I. did not already possess, said the study, which was produced by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and briefed to Congress on Tuesday.


The information surfaced as Congress was weighing whether to allow the law that authorizes the agency to operate the system — the USA Freedom Act of 2015 — to expire on March 15, or whether to accede to the Trump administration’s request that lawmakers extend the statute, so the agency could choose to turn the system back on in the future.

The entire system produced only 15 intelligence reports over the four years it ran - 14 of which were redundant. And it did that at the cost of spying on every single American. America's political elite is unlikely to care about the latter - they're fully committed to shitting on fundamental human rights in the name of an endless war against an abstraction. But they do care about money. And on that measure alone, this programme was pure waste. But I guess the real question is who that waste went to, and who they donate to, rather than any assessment of actual merit.