Mar 092007

A new report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General (IG) “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.” “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 (NSLs).'” (The Patriot Act gave FBI agents the right to “demand telephone, bank, credit card and library records by issuing” NSLs, “bypassing the need to seek a warrant from a federal judge.”) “In nearly a quarter of the case files” IG Glenn Fine reviewed, “he found previously unreported potential violations.” The report also found that in 2005, the FBI issued over 19,000 NSLs, “amounting to 47,000 separate requests for information.” Some agents issued these 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.” “Expect a weekend firestorm,” one Justice Department official said of the report. Ironically, on the same day of the report’s release, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will “deliver keynote remarks before the International Association of Privacy Professionals.”

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