US officials say less than 300 phone numbers were investigated in 2012, data thwarted terrorist plots

With all the coverage of PRSIM and the NSA's data collection have been getting recently, it's no surprise that the US government is eager to rationalize its actions. The crux of the latest defense seems to be that the government isn't using its treasure trove of data very often: according to recently declassified documents, the NSA used the database to investigate less than 300 phone numbers last year. These efforts reportedly prevented terrorist actions in more than 20 countries.

It's a small assurance, but a vague one, and the NSA knows it -- according to the Associated Press, the organization is trying to get the records of these thwarted plots declassified to demonstrate the program's value to concerned citizens. The reveal of such data might be a convincing argument, but disquieting revelations continue to roll out: members of congress are now reporting that the NSA has acknowledged that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls. Either way, we're certainly open to more government transparency.