Report shows U.S. officials struggled to assess usefulness of post-9/11 warrantless surveillance
A newly declassified report on the Bush administration's post-9/11 warrantless surveillance program says U.S. intelligence officials struggled to assess its usefulness.
The Obama administration released portions of the 2009 report on the program, which authorized the National Security Agency to collect bulk data on calls and emails of Americans without warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. It was codenamed Stellar Wind, according to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The report was prepared by inspectors general from the intelligence agencies, including the Justice Department. It was published by the Obama administration on Saturday in response to a lawsuit by The New York Times.
One FBI study of tips that came from the program between 2001 to 2005 found just 1.2% of leads from the program made significant contributions to detecting terrorist activity in the U.S, the report said. FBI officials, however, still termed the program useful, as did other intelligence agencies.
Doubts about the legality of aspects of the program led to a 2004 showdown between Justice Department officials and the White House, prompting top Justice and FBI officials -- including James Comey, then serving as deputy attorney general -- to threaten to resign. The issue came to a head in a confrontation between Comey and Alberto Gonzales, then White House counsel, in the hospital room of Attorney General John Ashcroft because Comey refused to reauthorize the program without changes. Bush made changes that disarmed the crisis, and Comey is now the FBI's director.