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Report Finds FBI Breached Regulations In Getting National Security Letters

The Washington Post reports that an Inspector General's review of FBI secret requests for personal records found 22 instances where internal DOJ and FBI regulations were violated.

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.

In 2005, the FBI issued more than 19,000 National Security letters (background here.) Inspector General Fine said the abuse could be more widespread than the 22 cases, which were found during a review of 293 such requests.

More...

....Officials said they believe that the 48 known problems may be the tip of the iceberg in an internal oversight system that one of them described as "shoddy."

The Patriot Act lowered the necessary findings for obtaining records though National security letters.

The USA Patriot Act, enacted after the 2001 attacks, eliminated the requirement that the FBI show "specific and articulable" reasons to believe that the records it demands belong to a foreign intelligence agent or terrorist.

....Now the bureau needs only to certify that the records are "sought for" or "relevant to" an investigation "to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."

As to what the FBI did wrong:

...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.

....In an unknown number of other cases, third parties such as telephone companies, banks and Internet providers responded to national security letters with detailed personal information about customers that the letters do not permit to be released. The FBI "sequestered" that information, a law enforcement official said last night, but did not destroy it.

The FBI also didn't report all requests to Congress:

Fine's audit, which was limited to 77 case files in four FBI field offices, found that those offices did not even generate accurate counts of the national security letters they issued, omitting about one in five letters from the reports they sent to headquarters in Washington. Those inaccurate numbers, in turn, were used as the basis for required reports to Congress.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Dog bites man (none / 0) (#1)
    by scarshapedstar on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 12:42:28 AM EST
    Sun rises in east, etc.

    quel surprise (none / 0) (#2)
    by zaitzefftheunconvicted2 on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 10:44:44 AM EST
    Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?

    Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

    [a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]

    Croupier: Your winnings, sir.

    Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.
    [aloud]

    Captain Renault: Everybody out at once!

    *

    I am shocked, shocked to learn the the FBI has violated procedure in handling the NSLs!  And, I am sure that the President and VP Cheney are shocked as well.  This is shocking!