Constitutional Law

As Domestic Spying Increases, Terrorism Prosecutions Decline

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In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, domestic spying on citizens by the U.S. government has increased considerably.

But it isn’t clear that this has led to any increase in terrorism prosecutions, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Although the number of domestic search warrants issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has more than doubled since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the number of federal terrorism and national security prosecutions filed by the Department of Justice in 2007 was down by more than 50 percent compared to 2002, the newspaper says.

“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,” the newspaper writes.

However, government officials say counting the number of terrorism prosecutions is not the right way to measure the success of domestic spying operations.

“The fact that the prosecutions are down doesn’t mean that the utility of these investigations is down. It suggests that these investigations may be leading to other forms of prevention and protection,” says Thomas Newcomb, a former White House national security aide under the Bush administration.

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