An unnamed top National Security Agency (NSA) official had a stark internal disagreement with then-director Keith Alexander in 2009 over the bulk metadata program, according to a new report by theAssociated Press (AP) on Thursday.
The official warned that the program put the agency into new and unlawful territory, saying that if it was made public, it would cause an enormous backlash.
That person, who has retired and spoke to the AP under condition of anonymity, said “he knows of no evidence the program was used for anything other than hunting for terrorism plots in the US. But he said he and others made the case that the collection of American records in bulk crossed a line that had been sacrosanct.”
The report continues: “He said he also warned of a scandal if it should be disclosed that the NSA was storing records of private calls by Americans—to psychiatrists, lovers, and suicide hotlines, among other contacts.”
Alexander acknowledged this official’s concerns to the AP: “An individual did bring us these questions, and he had some great points. I asked the technical folks, including him, to look at it.”
That program is authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act and remains the law of the land. A recent bill known as the USA Freedom Act, which would somewhat reform that process, died this week in the United States Senate.
Other NSA alumni have previously told Ars that they remain more concerned about other broader legal authorities, including Executive Order 12333 and the President’s Surveillance Program (PSP). (You can read more on the situation from Ars here and here.) In the weeks after the first Snowden documents came out, a leaked classified draft report by the NSA’s Inspector General was published byThe Guardian and The Washington Post. It explored the PSP’s beginnings and evolution.