Some NSA Officials Warned Agency of Surveillance Backlash in 2009

Officials Chose to Ignore Warnings About Program

In 2009, a major debate was going on behind the scenes at the NSA. A number of officials, including an unnamed top member of the agency, were warning that if the truth about their mass surveillance went public, it could cause a major backlash.

Things like the NSA keeping lists of who Americans are calling (a thing called metadata) could be explosive. They were pushing for reforms to be made way back when, and the administration ultimately spurned those recommendations.

That was until summer of 2013, when a former NSA employee, Edward Snowden, leaked the facts about the program, and sparked the exact backlash that officials were warned about years prior.

The revelation that the Obama Administration was already warned about the dangers of reckless surveillance years prior explains a lot about their annoyance when the leaks came out. The president already heard all of this way back in 2009, and already decided it wasn’t a big deal. That the American public strongly disagreed was unwelcome, but for officials, not necessarily relevant.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of