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Former director of NSA and CIA: ‘We kill people based on metadata’

On Wednesday, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner proposal to amend the USA Freedom Act, the domestic metadata collection by the National Security Agency (NSA) of millions of Americans, passed unanimously by a vote of 32-0, in the House Judiciary Committee.

National Security Agency
(NSA.gov)

The USA Freedom Act would scale back the federal government’s domestic surveillance programs against Americans.

However, what was not known is that such metadata is used to kill people, Michael Hayden, a retired Air Force General and former director of NSA and CIA said and was reported by David Cole, Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center on Saturday.

Cole said, “Under the USA Freedom Act, the NSA would be prohibited from collecting phone and Internet data en masse. It is precisely this power to collect our metadata that has prompted one of Congress’s most bipartisan initiatives in recent years.”

“Instead, such records would remain with the telephone and Internet companies… and the NSA would only be authorized to approach those companies on an individual, case-by-case basis… and only when it could first satisfy the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that there is reasonable suspicion that a particular person, entity, or account is linked to an international terrorist or a representative of a foreign government or political organization,” said Cole.

“For some, no doubt, the very fact that this bill has attracted such broad bipartisan approval will be grounds for suspicion,” Cole said. “After all, this is the same Congress that repeatedly reauthorized the 2001 USA Patriot Act, a law that was also proposed by Sensenbrenner and on which the bulk collection of metadata was said to rest… even if many members of Congress were not aware of how the NSA was using or abusing it.”

Cole wrote his opinion after he and Hayden debated the constitutionality of the NSA at the John Hopkins University and discussed the appropriate balance between personal privacy and national security in April 2014.

At the debate, Cole quoted Stewart Baker, the former general counsel of NSA, who said back in November 2013 that, “Metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata, you don’t really need content…. It’s sort of embarrassing how predictable we are as human beings.”

Hayden responded and called Baker’s comment “absolutely correct”, and further said, “We kill people based on metadata.”

During the debate, Cole referred to a report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that was released on January 2014 that found that there was little evidence that the metadata program has made us safer.

Over a seven-year period, the report said, “Based on the information provided to the Board, including classified briefings and documentation, we have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counter-terrorism investigation. Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack. And we believe that in only one instance over the past seven years has the program arguably contributed to the identification of an unknown terrorism suspect. Even in that case, the suspect was not involved in planning a terrorist attack and there is reason to believe that the FBI may have discovered him without the contribution of the NSA’s program.”

Hayden also discussed on how President Obama supported the NSA program and tried to convince Americans that this domestic spying on Americans was a good thing and that they should be comfortable with it.

Presently, the NSA currently collects and stores all American phone records for five years and Americans would not have known if whistle-blower Edward Snowden had not exposed the collection program, including the warrant-less database searches, in June 2013.

Major Garrett, Chief White House Correspondent with CBS News and Correspondent at Large with the National Journal and former senior White House correspondent for the Fox News Channel moderated the debate and the hour-long debate can be viewed above.