Shuttered NSA Phone Program ‘Never Helped In the First Place' - Whistleblower

© AP Photo / Patrick SemanskyNational Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md. (File)
National Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md. (File) - Sputnik International
The phone surveillance program that was quietly shuttered by the US' National Security Agency (NSA) never actually strengthened Washington's security measures, Bill Binney, a whistleblower and former technical director of the NSA, told Sputnik.

"It never helped in the first place," Binney told Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear on Tuesday when asked if the US' national security would be affected by the move. "What it did was hinder analysts from seeing what was really important for them to look at because it gave them so much data."

"[Analysts] never actually [found] anything meaningful, because all the information that was being dumped on them was just burying them with irrelevancy," he stressed.

​Speaking on the "Lawfare Podcast," Luke Murry, national security adviser for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), recently revealed that the NSA had stopped a controversial phone data program that involved the mass collection of citizens' calls and text messages.

Without offering much detail on the sudden change in operations, Murry noted that the program hadn't been used for more than six months, and that it was halted as a result of "problems."

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"It's called the Upstream program," Binney told host John Kiriakou. According to Binney, the upstream surveillance program essentially involves companies like AT&T and Verizon tapping into high-capacity fiber optic cables that carry internet traffic, and copying any and all data that they're able to confiscate. They can then sort through that data, theoretically, to find bits related to persons they're interested in.

Expanding on the program, the whistleblower went on to speculate that NSA analysts likely received data troves that amounted to roughly 3 billion transactions a day just within the US. Outside of the Land of the Free, officials obtained "as many as 12 billion [transactions] a day," Binney estimated.

"That's where the real data is collected," he said.

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Under the George W. Bush administration, the US first began collecting data as part of its counterterrorism program in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks. The data collection program was later disclosed to the public by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013, forcing Congress to put in place a new system that required federal agencies to first obtain a court order before demanding information from telecommunications companies.

However, the new system, as Murry noted, had its problems. In June 2018, the agency revealed in a press release that it would be deleting all of its call detail records since 2015 due to "technical irregularities" that resulted in the agency receiving data that it wasn't "authorized to receive."

Authorization for the record-collection program is set to expire in December.

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