Tuesday, January 17, 2006

NSA Spyed On Thousands Of Innocent Americans And Got No Usable Intelligence!!!

Oh, boy, I wonder what Alberto Gonzalez and George W. Bush will say about this NY Times story:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 - 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.

F.B.I. officials repeatedly complained to the spy agency that the unfiltered information was swamping investigators. The spy agency was collecting much of the data by eavesdropping on some Americans' international communications and conducting computer searches of phone and Internet traffic. Some F.B.I. officials and prosecutors also thought the checks, which sometimes involved interviews by agents, were pointless intrusions on Americans' privacy.

As the bureau was running down those leads, its director, Robert S. Mueller III, raised concerns about the legal rationale for a program of eavesdropping without warrants, one government official said. Mr. Mueller asked senior administration officials about "whether the program had a proper legal foundation," but deferred to Justice Department legal opinions, the official said.

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.

"We'd chase a number, find it's a schoolteacher with no indication they've ever been involved in international terrorism - case closed," said one former F.B.I. official, who was aware of the program and the data it generated for the bureau. "After you get a thousand numbers and not one is turning up anything, you get some frustration."

But wait!!! I thought this NSA spying program was crucial to keeping America safe from terrorists, was only spying on known Al Qaeda types, and helped to uncover real terrorist plots?

The law enforcement and counterterrorism officials said the program had uncovered no active Qaeda networks inside the United States planning attacks. "There were no imminent plots - not inside the United States," the former F.B.I. official said.

Some of the officials said the eavesdropping program might have helped uncover people with ties to Al Qaeda in Albany; Portland, Ore.; and Minneapolis. Some of the activities involved recruitment, training or fund-raising.

But, along with several British counterterrorism officials, some of the officials questioned assertions by the Bush administration that the program was the key to uncovering a plot to detonate fertilizer bombs in London in 2004. The F.B.I. and other law enforcement officials also expressed doubts about the importance of the program's role in another case named by administration officials as a success in the fight against terrorism, an aborted scheme to topple the Brooklyn Bridge with a blow torch.

Some officials said that in both cases, they had already learned of the plans through interrogation of prisoners or other means.
F.B.I. field agents, who were not told of the domestic surveillance programs, complained that they often were given no information about why names or numbers had come under suspicion. A former senior prosecutor who was familiar with the eavesdropping programs said intelligence officials turning over the tips "would always say that we had information whose source we can't share, but it indicates that this person has been communicating with a suspected Qaeda operative." He said, "I would always wonder, what does 'suspected' mean?"
"The information was so thin," he said, "and the connections were so remote, that they never led to anything, and I never heard any follow-up."
In response to the F.B.I. complaints, the N.S.A. eventually began ranking its tips on a three-point scale, with 3 being the highest priority and 1 the lowest, the officials said. Some tips were considered so hot that they were carried by hand to top F.B.I. officials. But in bureau field offices, the N.S.A. material continued to be viewed as unproductive, prompting agents to joke that a new bunch of tips meant more "calls to Pizza Hut," one official, who supervised field agents, said.

Okay, so let me get this striaght. The Bush administration spyed on thousands of Americans without warrants and/or reason, gave thousands of tips to the FBI which went nowhere and actually swamped the FBI's ability to conduct real investigations into terrorist activities, and uncovered no known Qaeda plots in the United States nor found any information that hadn't already been known from other sources.

So why the fuck is the administration so adamant about continuing the warrantless surveillance?

Could it just be about power?

I bet it could.

And forget about the bullshit meme that the Bushies need to do this warrantless spying to keep us safe from terrorism. If the facts in the Times story don't convince you that the NSA spying program is useless as well as illegal, then remember that the administration had the names of some of the 9/11 terrorists before the attacks on the Trade Center and the Pentagon through legal means and knew that Al Qaeda wanted to attack inside the United states with airplanes and still couldn't stop the attacks.

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