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Color me not reassured.

In a desperate attempt to quell public concerns over wide-reaching surveillance programs revealed by The Guardian U.K. and Washington Post a little over a week ago:

Top U.S. intelligence officials said Saturday that information gleaned from two controversial data-collection programs run by the National Security Agency thwarted potential terrorist plots in the U.S. and more than 20 other countries – and that gathered data is destroyed every five years.

Last year, fewer than 300 phone numbers were checked against the database of millions of U.S. phone records gathered daily by the NSA in one of the programs, the intelligence officials said in arguing that the programs are far less sweeping than their detractors allege.

Um, would that be potential actual terrorist plots - or - would that be the potential terrorist plots facilitated by the FBI using documented tactics that include the entrapment encouragement of unwitting dissidents who would otherwise lack both the wherewithal and the knowledge needed to pull off a real terrorist plot?

No other new specific details about the plots or the countries involved were included in the declassified information released to Congress on Saturday and subsequently made public by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Intelligence officials said they were working to declassify "the dozens of plots" NSA Director Keith Alexander said were disrupted by the programs during a congressional hearing last week. The director said he was trying to show Americans the value of the programs but they needed to make certain they don't "inadvertently" reveal the real reasons parts of the U.S. counter-terrorism "playbook" in the process.

Dozens of non-specific plots?

I'd be remiss not to mention at this point the fact that the day after revelations detailing the scope of the programs were released, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers announced the disruption of one terrorism plot could be attributed to the programs efficacy. The chairman released no details of the plot at the time.

Wouldn't it be logical to assume that the chairman would have known about more than one foiled terrorism plot at the time he made his statement last week? Or, is the NSA keeping Congress in the dark too?

In addition to heated public debate, the disclosures have sparked legal action against the administration by privacy activists like the ACLU, the Electronic Privacy Center and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

HuffPo has the story:

Intelligence officials said Saturday that both NSA programs are reviewed every 90 days by the secret court authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under the program, the records, showing things like time and length of call, can only be examined for suspected connections to terrorism, they said.

The officials offered more detail on how the phone records program helped the NSA stop a 2009 al-Qaida plot to blow up New York City subways. They say the program helped them track a co-conspirator of al-Qaida operative Najibullah Zazi – though it's not clear why the FBI needed the NSA to investigate Zazi's phone records because the FBI would have had the authority to gather records of Zazi's phone calls after identifying him as a suspect, rather than relying on the sweeping collection program. (emphasis mine)

In my view, this is a lame attempt to reassure Americans that the government is using the collection of the electronic data of all Americans judiciously and strictly to monitor terrorist threats. My question is why did it take so long to release non-specific information on both the number of plots foiled, and when, where and who were involved in them?

Why couldn't they be more specific with over a week to sort it out? It's not like they didn't have ALL the information they needed.

They report. You decide.

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