Multi-agency report questions presidential warrantless wiretapping program

[JURIST] The Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program [JURIST news archive] relied on a flawed legal analysis at its inception and produced results of questionable effectiveness, according to an unclassified version of a report [text] released Friday by five government agencies. The report, prepared by inspector generals at the US Department of Justice (DOJ), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Office of National Intelligence (ONI) [official websites], says that agency officials had "difficulty evaluating the precise contribution of the PSP [President's Surveillance Program] to counterterrorism efforts because it was most often viewed as one source among many available ..." despite the "unprecedented collection activities" that the program entailed. The report also cited lack of awareness of the program and the poor quality of the information it produced that has been described by receiving officers as vague. It recommended careful monitoring of any retained information collected. Responding to the report, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] Legislative Counsel Michelle Richardson emphasized [press release] "that the power Congress authorized with the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] Amendments Act is even broader than the illegal program the Bush administration was conducting, and is most likely just as ineffective. Giving up the Fourth Amendment for an ineffective program is a double slap in the face of Americans."

In June a federal judge upheld [JURIST report] provisions of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FISAAA) giving immunity to telecom companies from liability associated with assisting the National Security Agency (NSA) with warrantless eavesdropping, dismissing 46 lawsuits against the telecom industry. In January, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review made public [JURIST report] a ruling from August 2008 that upheld the Protect America Act [text], a previous 2007 amendment to FISA that allowed warrantless wiretaps of international phone and e-mail communications. After the amendment, warrants were still required to monitor purely domestic communications. The 2008 FISA amendment law granted the FISA court authority to review a wider range of wiretapping orders, prohibited the executive branch from overriding the court's authority, and ordered the DOJ and other agencies to issue this latest report on the country's use of wiretapping orders.



 

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