When I heard that General Keith Alexander testified that 50 terror plots were thwarted due to NSA's programs, I wondered why there wasn't more questions asked on the nature of the Thwarted Attacks.
Over the years it seems that the government was more than happy to report their prowess in preventing attacks.
I suspect their excuse would be: if they reported them, they would tip our hand in fighting the GWOT.
Reading the testimony closer it cites leads that helped prevent "potential" events. In over 20 countries and at least 10 domestic.
What is the nature of a "potential event?" They questioned a Muslim woman in Hamtramck who brought a pressure cooker?
I was once in an employment situation where, in an annual evaluation, I was accused of frequently telling co-workers "That's not in my job description!" I knew this to be false, for many reasons. In the first place, I have a deep appreciation for language, and I despise popular cliches. I know I have never uttered the phrases "It's not in my job description", "Shit happens", "It is what it is". And secondly, I did things outside of my job description for more times than I could remember, over the years.
So I challenged one of the evaluators to point to an instance in where I did such a thing. He replied: "It's not that you actually did do it, it is more of the perception that you might do it. This is what it is to be tagged for a "potential event."
I do wonder if one of those "domestic plots" thwarted resulted in the conviction (after 3 trials!) of the pathetic Liberty City 7 in Florida.Liberty City Seven. Yeah, they got the FBI informants to buy them boots for their rag-tag "army", but lacked operational capability to blow up the Sears Tower. Because they were dirt poor (and black, I believe) in one of the poorest cities in this country.
The genuine fear is that the algorithms used to tease patterns out of metadata will end up hurting innocent people and be blind to the more obvious.
It is somewhat similar of accusing a person with Tourette's of profanity.