According to Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the National Security Agency, all the information that the NSA collects (from phone calls to other forms of communication) does not actually include the content, just the metadata; however, he reports, the metadata in itself is all the government would need if it was to make the decision to kill someone. Video here, another article here.
[That] description... is absolutely correct. We kill people based on metadata. But thats not what we do with this metadata, said Hayden, apparently referring to domestic metadata collection. Its really important to understand the program in its entirety. Not the potentiality of the program, but how the program is actually conducted.
So NSA gets phone records, gets them from the telephone company, been getting them since October of 2001 from one authority or another, puts them in a lockbox... and under very strict limitations can access the lockbox, Hayden said and then described a hypothetical situation in which a number connected to a terrorist could be run against the metadata already collected to help investigators find additional leads in the name of national security.
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