Shortly after September 11, 2001, President Bush created a massive surveillance program to collect data on suspected terrorists. A report presented to Congress today by the federal inspectors general today provided the first serious glimpses at the secretive warrantless wiretapping program.
According to the report, the scope of the program was far beyond the wiretapping that was previously acknowledged, with FBI agents reporting that most of the generated leads of the enormous program had no connection to terrorism, though they claimed the “mere possibility” that they might produce useful information at some point made the surveillance worthwhile.
The report also criticized the “extraordinary and inappropriate” secrecy surrounding the program. The White House kept the program’s very existence a secret from all but a handful of trusted advisers who endorsed the program. Though Justice Department lawyer John Yoo was instrumental in convincing the administration that program was legal, even Attorney General John Ashcroft was not told of the full extent of the program until 2004.
The report did however, note that several members of Congress were briefed on the program in October of 2001, and a total of 17 times before the program’s existence was leaked in 2005. The lack of oversight makes it unclear if they were given even an inkling, however, of how massive the program truly was.