Federal judge almost shut down NSA surveillance program

U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton, arrives at the U.S. District Court, in this file photo of Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005, in Washington. AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari

SAN FRANCISCO Newly released documents show that a federal judge who oversaw a secret U.S. spy court almost shut down the government's domestic surveillance program after he "lost confidence" in officials' ability to operate it.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton issued a blistering opinion in 2009 after discovering government officials had been accessing domestic phone records for nearly three years without "reasonable, articulate suspicion" that they were connected to terrorism.

Walton ordered the National Security Agency to conduct and "end-to-end" review of its processes and policies while also ordering closer monitoring of its activities.

Later in 2009, a Justice Department lawyer reported that, in some cases, it appeared the NSA was distributing the sensitive phone records by email to as many as 189 analysts, but only 53 were approved by the intelligence court to see them.

Walton's dissatisfaction with the Obama administration's handling of the surveillance program are contained in hundreds of pages of previously classified documents federal officials released Tuesday.

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