Friday, March 09, 2007

DOJ's IG cites FBI wrong-doing

Gosh, here's a surprise (snark) ... it's been alleged that the FBI abused the extraordinary powers granted to it by the Patriot Act. According to the WaPo, it seems that the Justice Department's Inspector General 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."...

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.

Glenn Greenwald sagely observes:
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. The culture of lawlessness which the President has deliberately and continuously embraced virtually ensures, by design, that any Congressional limits on the use of executive power will be violated.

[...]

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. The culture of lawlessness which the President has deliberately and continuously embraced virtually ensures, by design, that any Congressional limits on the use of executive power will be violated.
Paul Kiel comments:
The most glaring abuse appears to concern the so-called "exigent letters":
The report identified several instances in which the FBI used a tool known as "exigent letters" to obtain information urgently, promising that the requests would be covered later by grand jury subpoenas or national security letters. In several of those cases, the subpoenas were never sent, the review found.

The review also found several instances in which agents claimed there were exigent circumstances when none existed. The FBI recently ended the practice of using exigent letters in national security cases, officials said last night.

Just a coincidence that they ended the practice right before the IG's report was released, I guess.

[...]

Update: The Post reports: Members of Congress vowed today to conduct investigative hearings -- and consider reining in parts of the Patriot Act -- following revelations of pervasive problems in the FBI's use of national security letters to secretly obtain telephone, e-mail and financial records in terrorism cases.

UPDATE: CNN reports that the results of this report are serious enough that there is Senate support to remove "Abu" Gonzales from office as Attorney-General.

On Sunday, Specter and Schumer called the FBI abuses unacceptable. They noted it was Congress that demanded the inspector general review the program even as Justice Department officials were providing assurances the government's surveillance programs were being run responsibly.

In coming hearings by the Judiciary Committee, senators plan to review whether it might be appropriate to scale back some of the government's law enforcement powers in light of the abuses.

"What we found in the Justice Department over and over again is a lack of respect for the rule of law," Schumer said. "There's a view that the executive should be almost without check."

"And that is so wrong," he said. "That's one of the reasons I think we need a change at the top in the Justice Department."

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