U.S. reviewing old, secret surveillance files

Thursday, 5 June 2003, 9:57 AM EST

Government prosecutors are reviewing years worth of sensitive telephone and e-mail wiretaps and results from secret searches to decide whether they can file criminal charges against suspected terrorists in the United States.

Senior prosecutors from across the country met Wednesday at the Justice Department with Attorney General John Ashcroft, who ordered the review. They said the examination of more than 4,500 intelligence files is guiding the government's pursuit of what Ashcroft described as "hundreds and hundreds" of suspected terrorists in this country.

The wiretaps and searches were performed during the past 25 years on suspected spies and terrorists under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. With permission from a super-secret U.S. spy court, the FBI has used such warrants to break into homes, offices and hotel rooms to install hidden cameras, copy computer files and eavesdrop on telephones. Agents also have intercepted e-mails and pried into safe deposit boxes.

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