Former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell, a member of President Obama’s NSA recommendation task force, not only thinks the agency’s surveillance programs are important — he wants to increase what they collect.
During a CBS “Face The Nation” Sunday interview, Morell said he wanted to correct the growing media narrative that the report released by the team last week recommends a total overhaul limiting the agency’s programs and procedures.
According to Morell, the bulk collection of domestic and international telephone metadata — the primary point of controversy surrounding the intelligence agency since Edward Snowden leaks — should be increased to include email, and that such a move would help to prevent the next 9/11-scale attack.
“I would argue actually that the email data is probably more valuable than the telephony data,” Morell told National Journal. “You can bet that the last thing a smart terrorist is going to do right now is call someone in the United States.”
The controversial program has been justified under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.
“I would argue that what effectiveness we have seen to date is totally irrelevant to how effective it might be in the future,” Morell said. “This program, 215, has the ability to stop the next 9/11, and if you added emails in there it would make it even more effective. Had it been in place in 2000 and 2001, I think that probably 9/11 would not have happened.”
Morell wants to renew an agency program that was suspended for compliance in 2009 and stopped altogether because of cost efficiency in 2011 that collects expanded amounts and types of Internet metadata mentioned in the footnotes of page 97 in the panel’s report.
He also touted support for a provision allowing the agency to bypass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in the case of emergencies.
The former acting CIA director’s comments come in stark contrast to more than a week of NSA news. Last week, a federal district judge ruled Section 215 and bulk telephone metadata collection as likely unconstitutional, the NSA panel’s report recommended significant changes intended to increase transparency and privacy, and another panel member said the programs have contributed nothing to preventing terrorism.