Unclassified Report On The President's Surveillance Program
VI. IMPACT OF THE PRESIDENT'S SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM ON INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY COUNTERTERRORISM EFFORTS
A. NSA's Assessment of the PSP
The NSA OIG reported that Hayden, referring to portions of the PSP in 2005, said there had probably been no communications more important to NSA efforts to defend the nation than those involving al-Qa'ida. NSA collected communications when one end was inside the United States and one end was associated with al-Qa'ida or terrorist groups associated with al Qa'ida in order to detect and prevent attacks inside the United States. Hayden stated that "the program in this regard has been successful." During the May 2006 Senate hearing on his nomination to be CIA Director, Hayden said that, had the PSP been in place before the September 2001 attacks, hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi almost certainly would have been identified and located.
In May 2009, Hayden told NSA OIG that the value of the Program was in knowing that NSA signals intelligence activities under the PSP covered an important "quadrant" of terrorist communications. NSA's Deputy Director 31 echoed Hayden's comment when he said that the value of the PSP was in the confidence it provided that someone was looking at the seam between the foreign and domestic intelligence domains.
B. DOJ OIG's Assessment of the PSP
In 2004 and 2006, the FBI's Office of General Counsel (OGC) attempted to assess the value of PSP information on FBI counterterrorism efforts. Neither of these efforts represented a comprehensive assessment of the PSP's value. The FBI conducted a more comprehensive survey of the impact of PSP-derived information, also in 2006. The results of these surveys are summarized in the DOJ OIG Report. Based in part on the results of one study, FBI management, including Director Mueller and Deputy Director John Pistole, concluded that the PSP was "of value."
The DOJ OIG sought as part of its review to assess the role of PSP-derived information and its value to the FBI's overall counterterrorism efforts. Director Mueller told the DOJ OIG that he believes the PSP was useful. Mueller said that the FBI must follow every lead it receives in order to prevent future terrorist attacks and that to the extent such information can be gathered and used legally it must be exploited. Mueller also stated that he "would not dismiss the potency of a program based on the percentage of hits."
The DOJ OIG interviewed FBI officials, agents, and analysts responsible for handling PSP information about their experiences with the program. These assessments, more fully described in Chapter Six of the DOJ OIG's report, generally were supportive of the program as "one tool of many" in the FBI's anti-terrorism efforts that "could help move cases forward." Even though most PSP leads were determined not to have any connection to terrorism, many of the FBI witnesses believed the mere possibility of the leads producing useful information made investigating the leads worthwhile.
However, the DOJ OIG also found that the exceptionally compartmented nature of the program created some frustration for FBI personnel. Some agents and analysts criticized the PSP-derived information they received for providing insufficient details, and the agents who managed counterterrorism programs at the FBI field offices the DOJ OIG visited said the FBI's process for disseminating PSP-derived information failed to adequately prioritize the information for investigation.
The DOJ OIG also examined several cases that have frequently been cited as examples of the PSP's contribution to the IC's counterterrorism efforts. These assessments, more fully described in Chapter Six of the DOJ OIG's report, generally were supportive of the program as "one tool of many" in the FBI's anti-terrorism efforts.
In sum, the DOJ OIG found it difficult to assess or quantify the overall effectiveness of the PSP program as it relates to the FBI's counterterrorism activities. However, based on the interviews conducted and documents reviewed, the DOJ OIG concluded that although PSP-derived information had value in some counterterrorism investigations, it generally played a limited role in the FBI's overall counterterrorism efforts. The reasons for this conclusion are classified and are described in the classified report and Chapter Six of the DOJ OIG report.
As noted above, certain activities that were originally authorized as part of the PSP have subsequently been authorized under orders issued by the FISC. The DOJ OIG believes that DOJ and other IC agencies should continue to assess the value of information derived from such activities to the government's counterterrorism efforts.
C. CIA OIG's Assessment of the PSP
The CIA OIG reviewed the impact of the PSP on the CIA's counterterrorism efforts.
The CIA OIG reported that senior administration officials considered the PSP to be a valuable counterterrorism tool. In his December 2005 press conference, President Bush also said that there was an on-going debate in Washington, D.C. that criticized his, and previous, administrations for not "connecting the dots" prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001. He went on to say that the USA PATRIOT Act and the NSA program (the PSP) are helping to connect the dots as best as his administration possibly can. During a December 2005 press briefing, Hayden said that information had been obtained through this program that would not otherwise have been available. Senior CIA officials also told the CIA OIG that they had received PSP reporting with information that was previously unavailable. One senior official told the CIA OIG that the program eliminated some of the impediments that the CIA had encountered in accessing and analyzing communications between foreign and domestic locations. Another said that the PSP was a key resource, and without it there would have been a missing piece of the picture.
The CIA OIG determined that the CIA did not implement procedures to assess the usefulness of the product of the PSP and did not routinely document whether particular PSP reporting had cQntributed to successful counterterrorism operations. CIA officials, including Hayden, told the CIA OIG that PSP reporting was used in conjunction with reporting from other intelligence sources; consequently, it is difficult to attribute the success of particular counterterrorism case exclusively to the PSP. In a May 2006 briefing to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, a senior CIA official said that PSP reporting was rarely the sole basis for an intelligence success, but that it frequently played a supporting role. He went on to state that the program was an additional resource to enhance the CIA's understanding of terrorist networks and to help identify potential threats to the U.S. homeland. Other officials told the CIA OIG that the PSP was one of many tools available to them, and that the tools were often used in combination.
NSA disseminated PSP-derived information in its normal reporting channels when it could be done without revealing the source of the information. As such, CIA officers, even those read into the program, would have been unaware of the full extent of PSP reporting. In the course of this review, the CIA OIG learned of numerous PSP reports that provided leads. However, because there is no means to comprehensively track how PSP information was incorporated into CIA analysis, officials were able to provide only limited information on how program reporting contributed to successful operations, and the CIA OIG was unable to independently draw any conclusion on the overall effectiveness of the program to the CIA.
The CIA OIG determined that several factors hindered the CIA in making full use of the product of the PSP. Many CIA officials stated that too few CIA personnel at the working level were read into the PSP. At the program's inception, a disproportionate number' of the CIA personnel who were read into the PSP were senior CIA managers. According to one CIA manager, the tight control over access to the PSP prevented some officers who could have made effective use of the program reporting from being read in. Another official stated that the disparity between the number of senior CIA managers read into PSP and the number of working-level CIA personnel resulted in too few CIA personnel to fully utilize PSP information for targeting and analysis.
Officials also told the CIA OIG that working-level CIA analysts and targeting officers who were read into the PSPhad too many competing priorities, and too many other information sources and analytic tools available to them, to fully utilize PSP reporting. Officials also stated that much of the PSP reporting was vague or without context, which led analysts and targeting officers to rely more heavily on other information sources and analytic tools, which were more easily accessed and timely than the PSP.
CIA officers also told the CIA OIG that the PSP would have been more fully utilized if analysts and targeting officers had obtained a better understanding of the program's capabilities. There was no formal training on the use of the PSP beyond the initial read-in to the program. Many CIA officers stated that the instruction provided in the read-in briefing was not sufficient and that they were surprised and frustrated by the lack of additional guidance. Some officers told the CIA OIG that there was insufficient legal guidance on the use of PSP-derived information.
The CIA OIG concluded that the factors that hindered the CIA in making full use of the PSP might have been mitigated if the CIA had designated an individual at an appropriate level of managerial authority who possessed knowledge of both the PSP and CIA counterterrorism activities to be responsible and accountable for overseeing CIA involvement in the program.
D. ODNI's Assessment of the PSP
Hayden told the PSP IG Group that during his tenure as Director of the NSA, he sought to disseminate PSP information within the IC while also protecting the PSP as the source of the information. Hayden said this policy likely resulted in IC analysts not having a full appreciation of the PSP's value because they likely did not realize that some NSA reporting was derived from the PSP. NCTC analysts confirmed that they often did not know if the NSA intelligence available to them was derived from the PSP. The NCTC analysts said they understood that NSA marked PSP information in a manner that protected the source of the information.
On those occasions when the NCTC analysts knew that a particular NSA intelligence product was derived from the PSP, the analysts said they reviewed the PSP information in the same manner as other NSA intelligence products and, if appropriate, incorporated the PSP information into analytical products being prepared for the DNI and other senior intelligence officials. NCTC analysts with access to PSP information told the ODNI OIG that they had broad access to a wide variety of high-quality and fully evaluated terrorism related intelligence, including some of the most sensitive and valuable terrorism intelligence available to the IC. In this context, NCTC analysts characterized the PSP information as being a useful tool, but noted that the information was only one of several valuable sources of information available to them. During ODNI OIG interviews, some NCTC analysts and ODNI personnel described the PSP information as "one tool in the tool box" or used equivalent descriptions to explain their view that the PSP information was not of greater value than other sources of intelligence. The NCTC analysts noted that the NSA policy protecting the source of the PSP information would have resulted in them not fully understanding the value of the PSP information.
Hayden said the PSP information allowed IC leaders to make valuable judgments regarding the allocation of national security resources. Hayden described the PSP as an "early warning system" for terrorist threats. Hayden told the ODNI OIG that the PSP was extremely valuable in protecting the United States from an al-Qa'ida terrorist attack. He cited several examples of where he said the PSP information was used to disrupt al-Qa'ida operatives or assist in terrorism investigations.
E. Intelligence Community Activities Supported by the PSP
Most IC officials interviewed by the PSP IG Group had difficulty citing specific instances where PSP reporting had directly contributed to counterterrorism successes. Although it was difficult for a variety of reasons already discussed to independently identify instances where PSP reporting contributed to successful counterterrorism efforts, there are several cases identified by IC officials and in IC documentation where PSP reporting may have contributed to a counterterrorism success. These cases cannot be discussed in this unclassified report, but are described in the classified report and accompanying individual OIG reports.
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