Tuesday, May 13, 2008

BUSH TERROR TACTICS AGAINST CITIZENS INCREASE AS TERROR PROSECUTIONS DECLINE

LA TIMES The number of Americans being secretly wiretapped or having their financial and other records reviewed by the government has continued to increase as officials aggressively use powers approved after the Sept. 11 attacks. But the number of terrorism prosecutions ending up in court - one measure of the effectiveness of such sleuthing - has continued to decline, in some cases precipitously.

The trends, visible in new government data and a private analysis of Justice Department records, are worrisome to civil liberties groups and some legal scholars. They say it is further evidence that the government has compromised the privacy rights of ordinary citizens without much to show for it.. . .

Although legal experts say they would not necessarily expect the number of prosecutions to rise along with the stepped-up surveillance, there are few other good ways to measure how well the government is progressing in keeping the country safe. . .

A recent study showed that the number of terrorism and national security cases initiated by the Justice Department in 2007 was more than 50% below 2002 levels. The nonprofit Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which obtained the data under the Freedom of Information Act, found that the number of cases brought declined 19% in the last year alone, dropping to 505 in 2007 from 624 in 2006.

By contrast, the Justice Department reported last month that the nation’s spy court had granted 2,370 warrant requests by the department to search or eavesdrop on suspected terrorists and spies in the U.S. last year - 9% more than in 2006. The number of such warrants approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has more than doubled since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The department also reported a sharp rise in the use of national security letters by the FBI - from 9,254 in 2005 to 12,583 in 2006, the latest data available. The letters seek customer information from banks, Internet providers and phone companies. They have caused a stir because consumers do not have a right to know that their information is being disclosed and the letters are issued without court oversight.

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