By Ellen Nakashima
Published: June 19, 2013

The National Security Agency’s massive collection of Americans’ phone records has “played little or no role” in the disruption of dozens of terrorist plots, contrary to Obama administration assertions, said two U.S. senators who have access to classified information.

In a statement Wednesday, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) disputed recent statements by senior administration officials that a top-secret NSA surveillance program to collect tens of millions of domestic calling records from U.S. phone companies has helped thwart more than 50 terrorist plots in the United States and abroad.

The phone-records program, authorized under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, was revealed this month after a leak to the Guardian newspaper. Details of a separate program to collect e-mails and other Internet content of foreign targets were also disclosed this month following leaks to the Guardian and The Washington Post.

Both programs, NSA Director Keith B. Alexander said this week, have provided the government with “critical leads” to foil plots, including one to bomb the New York Stock Exchange. He testified to Congress that the Internet program contributed to plot disruptions in “over 90 percent” of the cases.

Wyden and Udall, both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, acknowledged that “multiple terrorist plots have been disrupted at least in part because of information” from the Internet surveillance program, which is known as PRISM and is authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

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