The US National Security Agency’s electronic snooping led to “well over 100 arrests” and helped smash numerous terrorist plots, a privacy review panel said.
The figures in a 196-page report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) offer new details on the NSA’s claims that its oft-criticised data sweep programs had helped avert terrorist attacks on the US and its allies.
The report largely endorsed the electronic surveillance under a law known as Section 702.
“A rough count of these cases identifies well over 100 arrests on terrorism-related offences,” the report said.
“In other cases that did not lead to disruption of a plot or apprehension of conspirators, Section 702 appears to have been used to provide warnings about a continuing threat or to assist in investigations that remain ongoing.”
The report said around 15 cases involved some connection to the United States, and some 40 cases involved operatives and plots in foreign countries.
PCLOB said the NSA’s claims were largely in line with its own conclusions.
The report was in sharp contrast to the same panel’s rebuke of domestic surveillance efforts earlier this year.
But civil liberties and privacy activists said the panel failed to consider the ramifications of the NSA’s broad data collection in light of revelations from documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The panel examined the program dubbed PRISM which collects data from major Internet companies and other sources.