Revelations Erode Support for NSA Spying

The public and even congresscritters abandon ship


WASHINGTON — A reporter recently asked the National Security Agency's chief a blunt question: Why can't he come up with a better example of a terrorism plot foiled through the bulk collection of U.S. phone records?

In the weeks since Edward Snowden disclosed that the NSA had been collecting and storing the calling histories of nearly every American, NSA Director Keith Alexander and other U.S. officials have cited only one case as having been discovered exclusively by searching those records: some San Diego men who sent $8,500 to Al Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia.

Although intelligence officials and the White House continue to defend the mass data collection, support has clearly eroded among the public and in Congress. A coalition of libertarians on the right and civil liberties advocates on the left came six votes short of passing an amendment in the House last week to curtail bulk collection of phone records, but no one believes that will be the last word.