In his interview with Charlie Rose, President Obama is quoted saying:
…They’ll say … when you start looking at metadata, even if you don’t know the names, you can match it up … and you can yield all this information. All of that is true, except for the fact that for the government, under the program right now, to do that it would be illegal. We would not be allowed to do that.
Of course, telephone and internet metadata are useless to intelligence or law enforcement, that’s why their
acquisitioncollection is (or, was) such a zealously guarded secret and why the reaction to their collection being made public was so ferocious. I mean, who wouldn’t be outraged at the revelation of a secret mass surveillance program of absolutely no intelligence value?
Telephone metadata is useless, as German politician Malte Spitz has demonstrated:
No useful information there at all. Your recurring travel habits, both everyday and out of the ordinary, are of no value, obviously. And that’s before you get to who and when you called and how long you talked.
And neither is your email metadata:
And it hardly matters that this information will be retained “not in perpetuity”. It wouldn’t be useful in the future, of course, even if the government has a reason to use it.
This is assuming — since Obama made the distinction between what is legal and what is illegal — everything about the program is legal. And we have no need to doubt that, do we?