Government's Spy Powers Up, But Terror Arrests Down

Civil-liberty groups squawk; feds say numbers don't tell whole story
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 12, 2008 11:15 AM CDT
U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey addresses the Commonwealth Club on Thursday, March 27, 2008, in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
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(Newser) – Big Brother is watching … but hasn’t found much, the Los Angeles Times reports. Despite vastly increased domestic spying activities, terrorism prosecutions have plummeted 50% since 2002; last year alone saw a 19% drop, despite a 9% increase in eavesdropping warrants. The Bush administration, meanwhile, is pushing for even greater surveillance powers, and says the decrease in prosecutions doesn’t mean much.

“These investigations may be leading to other forms of prevention and protection,” said a former Bush aide. But civil-liberties groups claim there are few other ways to judge spy programs’ effectiveness, and say privacy is being needlessly invaded. “The number of Americans being investigated dwarfs any legitimate number of actual terrorism prosecutions,” said one advocate. “That is extremely troubling.”