The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Do NSA's Bulk Surveillance Programs Stop Terrorists?

SurveillanceThe New America Foundation released this morning a report that poses, and seeks to answer, one of today's most popular questions related to federal surveillance programs: "Do NSA's Bulk Surveillance Programs Stop Terrorists?"

The report analyzed 225 individuals recruited by al-Qaida or like-minded groups, and charged in the U.S. with an act of terrorism since 9/11, and found that "the contribution of NSA's [National Security Agency] bulk surveillance programs to these cases was minimal, and that traditional investigative methods were more helpful." Data showed that of the individuals charged, only around 8% were identified by NSA surveillance programs, whereas almost 60% were identified by traditional investigative methods.

In addition to its report, the New America Foundation has created an interactive webpage that visually displays the findings of the investigation, including a pie chart of "Investigative Methods Used to Detect Terror Suspects" and links to descriptions of identified terror plots (both NSA- and non NSA-related).

This report also serves as a timely precursor to President Obama's upcoming speech on Friday, January 17, 2014 in which he will discuss his decisions on how to reform U.S. surveillance practices. Reform decisions will likely reflect the findings of the newly-formed Review Group on Intelligence Reform, whose 46 recommendations were released in a White House report in December 2013.