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Thursday, July 23, 2009

U.S. Wiretapping of Limited Value, Officials Report

The New York Times - WASHINGTON — While the Bush administration had defended its program of wiretapping without warrants as a vital tool that saved lives, a new government review released Friday said the program’s effectiveness in fighting terrorism was unclear.

The report, mandated by Congress last year and produced by the inspectors general of five federal agencies, found that other intelligence tools used in assessing security threats posed by terrorists provided more timely and detailed information.

Most intelligence officials interviewed “had difficulty citing specific instances” when the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program contributed to successes against terrorists, the report said.

While the program obtained information that “had value in some counterterrorism investigations, it generally played a limited role in the F.B.I.’s overall counterterrorism efforts,” the report concluded. The Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence branches also viewed the program, which allowed eavesdropping without warrants on the international communications of Americans, as a useful tool but could not link it directly to counterterrorism successes, presumably arrests or thwarted plots.

The report also hinted at political pressure in preparing the so-called threat assessments that helped form the legal basis for continuing the classified program, whose disclosure in 2005 provoked fierce debate about its legality. The initial authorization of the wiretapping program came after a senior C.I.A. official took a threat evaluation, prepared by analysts who knew nothing of the program, and inserted a paragraph provided by a senior White House official that spoke of the prospect of future attacks against the United States.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/11/us/11nsa.html

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