Privacy SOS

Snowden: FBI didn’t stop Tamerlan Tsarnaev because it was busy spying on you

Above: one of the many over-broad NSA spying programs that did squat to stop attackers from bombing the Boston Marathon in April 2013.

Last week, Edward Snowden submitted testimony to the European Parliament’s inquiry into the Electronic Mass Surveillance of EU Citizens. Snowden blasted the US mass surveillance regime, which doesn’t protect the public from actual threats, but destroys the character of its open society, he argues:

Nor did the US government’s comprehensive monitoring of Americans at home stop the Boston Bombers. Despite the Russians specifically warning us about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the FBI couldn’t do more than a cursory investigation—although they did plenty of worthless computer-based searching—and failed to discover the plot. 264 people were injured, and 3 died. The resources that could have paid for a real investigation had been spent on monitoring the call records of everyone in America.

This should not have happened. I worked for the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency. The National Security Agency. The Defense Intelligence Agency. I love my country, and I believe that spying serves a vital purpose and must continue. And I have risked my life, my family, and my freedom to tell you the truth.

The NSA granted me the authority to monitor communications world-wide using its mass surveillance systems, including within the United States. I have personally targeted individuals using these systems under both the President of the United States’ Executive Order 12333 and the US Congress’ FAA 702. I know the good and the bad of these systems, and what they can and cannot do, and I am telling you that without getting out of my chair, I could have read the private communications of any member of this committee, as well as any ordinary citizen. I swear under the penalty of perjury that this is true.

These are not the capabilities in which free societies exist. Mass surveillance violates our rights, risks our safety, and threatens our way of life.

Read Snowden’s full testimony.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.