NSA to Scrap Phone Metadata Collection: Agency Swamped With Useless Data


6 months ago, the NSA quietly stopped looking at all the phone data it was collecting. It became a logistical nightmare.

“Candle is Not Worth the Flame"

Please consider NSA Recommends Dropping Phone-Surveillance Program.

The National Security Agency has recommended that the White House abandon a surveillance program that collects information about U.S. phone calls and text messages, saying the logistical and legal burdens of keeping it outweigh its intelligence benefits, according to people familiar with the matter.

The surveillance program began clandestinely—and, at first, without court approval—under the George W. Bush administration in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The NSA operation has sought to collect the metadata of all domestic calls in the U.S. in order to hunt for links among potential associates of terrorism suspects. Metadata include the numbers and time stamps of a call or text message but not the contents of the conversation.

Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden leaked the existence of the program—along with a tranche of documents exposing other surveillance operations carried out by the NSA—to journalists nearly six years ago. The disclosures ignited an international uproar over the scope of America’s electronic-spying capabilities.

“The candle is not worth the flame,” one former senior intelligence official said about the phone-records program.

Snowden a Hero

I consider Edward Snowden a hero for disclosing the depth and illegalities of all this collection to the world.

Recall that the NSA had even tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone.

Big Zero

The NSA defended the data collection as vital.

Many of us laughed at the assertion. I wondered how long it would take for the agency to become so swamped with useless data that it stopped looking at it.

Today, we have the answer.

And the total scorecard for this wasteful, intrusive, and illegal effort has been a big zero. Actually, the program had negative benefits. The time, energy, and money could have been spent on more productive ideas.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (48)
No. 1-24

NSA Never MetaData it didn't like. But why bother collecting it when everyone voluntarily gives all their personal data to Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg and Google when they click I Agree to the dozens of pages terms and conditions.

Particularly Facebook - We'll download your contacts, continually track your position, read your email and texts, listen in including to all your phone calls and read your call logs, save the photo metadata...


I had a funny feeling all along that the incompetent maroons working for the guvamint wouldn't have the foggiest idea what to do with all that data.



Nice that NSA is quitting the illegal program, even if it is for the wrong reason. When will Clapper be held responsible for lying to congress about it? People are in jail for similar but much less serious crimes. Obviously the Deep State protects it's own, just like corrupt Illinois politicians protect themselves.


Thanks I needed a laugh. Doesn't mean the program ever should have been allowed. The libertarian in me always thought it was wrong. One of the few things that Rand Paul got right


They're still collecting. With the infrastructure already built and in place, there's no reason why they wouldn't. Even without collecting, backbone providers still have to give them access to their infrastructure, since part of their charter is to help protect and coordinate critical communications infrastructure against / during attacks.

By officially no longer collecting the data, they avoid having to respond to whichever privileged idiot, thinks he is entitled to ask about it. And, by appearing less out of control, they're in a better position to recruit the kind of competent people they need to make sense of large, heterogeneous data sets.

For all the bad press and their horrible reputation, the NSA is, as far as Big Government goes, not really all that bad. They are very much aware that they need to be seen as "not evil," or they can't recruit the kind of pointy end of the spear brainiacs they need to do what they do. And, they're really only chartered to involve themselves in pretty substantial direct threats to the US. Of course, Newspeak being the language of the land, we're not far from trial lawyers demanding access to data collected for the purpose of providing heads up about imminent nuclear attacks, so they can enrich themselves by sueing people who "threaten national security" by burping sodabubbles; and similarly fashionable drivel.