FBI Violated Patriot Act

Ken AshfordWiretapping & SurveillanceLeave a Comment

But for a scandal-ridden administration and a scandal-weary public, the exclusive report by ABC news would probably be considered a "bombshell".  Sadly, it’s probably just going to be thrown on the pile as yet another abuse of laws and the Constitution by the Bush Administration — a cabal who never feels beholden to follow the law and Constitution in the first place:

The FBI repeatedly failed to follow the strict guidelines of the Patriot Act when its agents took advantage of a new provision allowing the FBI to obtain phone and financial records without a court order, according to a report to be made public Friday by the Justice Department’s Inspector General.

The report, in classified and unclassified versions, remains closely held, but Washington officials who have seen it tell ABC News it documents "numerous lapses" and describe it as "scathing" and "not a pretty picture for the FBI."

FBI Director Robert Mueller is scheduled to brief Congress on the report at noon.

The officials say the inspector general found the FBI underreported by at least 20 percent the use of the controversial provision, known as National Security Letters, NSLs, in required disclosures to Congress.

The Patriot Act gave FBI agents the ability to demand telephone, bank, credit card and library records by issuing an administrative letter, bypassing the need to seek a warrant from a federal judge.

Senator Feingold has issued a statement:

This report proves that "trust us" doesn’t cut it when it comes to the government’s power to obtain Americans’ sensitive business records without a court order and without any suspicion that they are tied to terrorism or espionage. I fought hard to prevent abuses of this power when the Senate debated reauthorizing the Patriot Act last year. I will work with Senator Leahy and Senator Rockefeller to make sure the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees conduct full and prompt investigations, and I will press for quick Senate action on sensible reforms to help prevent future abuses of National Security Letters.

Glenn Greenwald points out something important:

That the FBI is abusing its NSL power is entirely unsurprising, …but the real story here — and it is quite significant — has not even been mentioned by any of these news reports. …[T]he NSL reporting requirements imposed by Congress were precisely the provisions which President Bush expressly proclaimed he could ignore when he issued a "signing statement" as part of the enactment of the Patriot Act’s renewal into law. Put another way, the law which the FBI has now been found to be violating is the very law which George Bush publicly declared he has the power to ignore.


When a country is ruled by an individual who repeatedly and openly arrogates unto himself the power to violate the law, and specifically proclaims that he is under no obligation to account to Congress or anyone else concerning the exercise of radical new surveillance powers such as NSLs, it should come as absolutely no surprise that agencies under his control freely break the law.

Exactly.  When the President himself specifically declares that he can ignore a particualr law, is it any wonder that the FBI ignored the law?

UPDATE:  The audit report (warning: very very large PDF) is now available.  CNN provides these bulletpoint details:

• Poor bookkeeping, records management to blame, one official says
• FBI reported checking on phone, e-mail records of 3,501 people over two years
• FBI said it made 9,254 record requests, but audit shows figure is 20 percent more
• Unlike subpoenas, targets of national security letters not notified