Wiretap Program Had 'Limited' Value: Fed Report

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 11, 2009 8:15 AM CDT
President Bush, flanked by CIA Director Michael Hayden, right, and Deputy CIA Director Stephen Kappes, makes a statement after participating in a briefing on terrorism last year.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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(Newser) – The Bush administration's warrantless wiretap program wasn't such a great anti-terror tool after all, says a new federal report. The wiretaps—on the international communication of Americans—"generally played a limited role" in counterterrorism efforts, despite the assertions of President Bush, Dick Cheney, and other top officials that they were essential, the New York Times reports.

Intelligence officials “had difficulty citing specific instances" when they actually helped. The report, compiled by five federal inspectors-general, also suggests the Bush administration used "scary memos" to pressure the NSA to keep the program running. One of the problems with the controversial program is that it was too secret, the report says. So few CIA staffers knew about it, for instance, that any leads it produced were "vague or without context."