"There is very little evidence that any of this has done much good," Mueller said Friday. "The costs certainly outweigh the benefits, especially if you include things like privacy costs and opportunity costs," he said.
According to Mueller, even if the metadata program was to result in the NSA thwarting just one major terrorist attack every four years, it would still not be cost effective when all costs are accounted for.
Noted security researcher Bruce Schneier said the analysis of the value of the metadata program appears solid. "I think they have great framework for analysis, and -- given the information we have -- have demonstrated that [the data collection program] doesn't have value," he said
"Of course, it's possible that the NSA has secret information that proves that it does have value. But given that the NSA has been pretty desperate to show that they're actually keeping us secure, it's pretty safe to conclude that if they did have evidence they would have presented it," he said.
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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