Friday :: Mar 9, 2007

FBI Illegally Using Patriot Act Against American Citizens


by Steve

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Are you really surprised to awaken this morning and find out that the FBI has been improperly and illegally using National Security Letters, another fine creation of the Patriot Act, to gather private information on US citizens? I’m not. Between the corrupt Attorney Generals that Bush has employed in John Ashcroft and especially Alberto Gonzales, and the terribly overrated and borderline negligent Robert Mueller, we should not be surprised that FBI agents have apparently been allowed to run roughshod unsupervised through the private lives of American citizens for these last several years without any oversight from the courts or FBI management.

A Justice Department investigation has found pervasive errors in the FBI's use of its power to secretly demand telephone, e-mail and financial records in national security cases, officials with access to the report said yesterday.
The inspector general's audit found 22 possible breaches of internal FBI and Justice Department regulations -- some of which were potential violations of law -- in a sampling of 293 "national security letters." The letters were used by the FBI to obtain the personal records of U.S. residents or visitors between 2003 and 2005. The FBI identified 26 potential violations in other cases.

Except the problem could be much bigger, and the AP makes it clear that illegality was involved here.

Officials said they could not be sure of the scope of the violations but suggested they could be more widespread, though not deliberate. In nearly a quarter of the case files Inspector General Glenn A. Fine reviewed, he found previously unreported potential violations.

That means at least a quarter of all NSLs over three years are suspect. But what strikes me is the assertion by the DOJ Inspector General that he sees nothing deliberate in this illegality:

According to three officials with access to the report, Fine said the possible violations he discovered did not "manifest deliberate attempts to circumvent statutory limitations or departmental policies."
But Fine found that FBI agents used national security letters without citing an authorized investigation, claimed "exigent" circumstances that did not exist in demanding information and did not have adequate documentation to justify the issuance of letters.

How in the hell does Fine know there is nothing deliberate about a quarter of these cases being nothing more than fishing expeditions where the agent was allegedly too lazy or sloppy to demonstrate a need for the information?

To believe Fine, you would have to accept that the FBI is so poorly run and their agents so poorly trained that such negligence among their agents and management is commonplace. And frankly, if you buy the Bush Administration’s explanation here as expressed through Fine, then it leads you to one of two things, or both: Mueller needs to be fired, and the Patriot Act provisions on NSLs needs to be revised immediately. Again we’re talking about situations where the FBI has been allowed to go through the private records of American citizens without showing cause on fishing expeditions, and is still retaining this information. In other words, the information illegally obtained is possibly being used to compile a database on citizens for reasons other than terror investigations, like a political database that Karl Rove would fine very useful.

And if Patrick Leahy, Arlen Specter, and the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees can’t see a problem here, then we have far bigger problems to worry about.

Steve :: 8:02 AM :: Comments (22) :: Spotlight :: Digg It!