Privacy advocates were right all along: The costs of one of the most controversial spy programs revealed by Edward Snowden far outweighed its benefits. That’s obvious from a 103-page study of recent efforts to log, store, and search phone metadata––e.g., the time a call was made, its duration, and the phone numbers involved––about most calls that Americans made or received.
Researchers at the congressionally created Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board found that from 2015 to 2019, the NSA’s call-metadata program cost taxpayers $100 million. “Only twice during that four-year period did the program generate unique information that the F.B.I. did not already possess,” reported Charlie Savage of The New York Times, who read a copy of the findings and went on to quote a passage characterizing those two pieces of unique information: “Based on one report, F.B.I. vetted an individual, but, after vetting, determined that no further action was warranted. The second report provided unique information about a telephone number, previously known to U.S. authorities, which led to the opening of a foreign intelligence investigation.”