NSA Eavesdropping Yields Dead Ends
All of that extra-legal NSA eavesdropping resulted in a whole lot of dead ends.
In the anxious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency began sending a steady stream of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I. in search of terrorists. The stream soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month.
But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans.
Surely this can't be a surprise to anyone? And as I've been arguing for years, programs like this divert resources from real investigations.
President Bush has characterized the eavesdropping program as a "vital tool" against terrorism; Vice President Dick Cheney has said it has saved "thousands of lives."
But the results of the program look very different to some officials charged with tracking terrorism in the United States. More than a dozen current and former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, including some in the small circle who knew of the secret program and how it played out at the F.B.I., said the torrent of tips led them to few potential terrorists inside the country they did not know of from other sources and diverted agents from counterterrorism work they viewed as more productive.
A lot of this article reads like a turf war between the NSA and the FBI, but the "inside baseball" aspects are interesting.
EDITED TO ADD (1/18): Jennifer Granick has written on the topic.
Posted on January 18, 2006 at 6:51 AM • 70 Comments