Declassified Report Questions Value of Warrantless Wiretaps

The New York Times has a newly declassified report from the inspectors general of the CIA, NSA, Justice Department, Defense Department, and Director of National Intelligence finding that the “secrecy surrounding the National Security Agency’s post-9/11 warrantless surveillance and bulk data collection program hampered its effectiveness, and many members of the intelligence community later struggled to identify any specific terrorist attacks it thwarted.

“The document is a lengthy report on a once secret N.S.A. program code-named Stellarwind… The report amounts to a detailed history of the program. While significant parts remain classified, it includes some new information. For example, it explains how the Bush administration came to tell the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, Royce C. Lamberth, about the program’s existence in early 2002.”

“The report said that the secrecy surrounding the program made it less useful. Very few working-level C.I.A. analysts were told about it. After the warrantless wiretapping part became public, Congress legalized it in 2007; the report said this should have happened earlier to remove ‘the substantial restrictions placed on F.B.I. agents’ and analysts’ access to and use of program-derived information due to the highly classified status’ of Stellarwind.”

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