FBI Broke The Law

Gonzales, Mueller Admit FBI Broke Law

By LARA JAKES JORDAN
AP
WASHINGTON (AP) - The nation’s top two law enforcement officials acknowledged Friday the FBI broke the law to secretly pry out personal information about Americans. They apologized and vowed to prevent further illegal intrusions.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales left open the possibility of pursuing criminal charges against FBI agents or lawyers who improperly used the USA Patriot Act in pursuit of suspected terrorists and spies.

The FBI’s transgressions were spelled out in a damning 126-page audit by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. He found that agents sometimes demanded personal data on people without official authorization, and in other cases improperly obtained telephone records in non-emergency circumstances.

The audit also concluded that the FBI for three years underreported to Congress how often it used national security letters to ask businesses to turn over customer data. The letters are administrative subpoenas that do not require a judge’s approval.

“People have to believe in what we say,” Gonzales said. “And so I think this was very upsetting to me. And it’s frustrating.”

“We have some work to do to reassure members of Congress and the American people that we are serious about being responsible in the exercise of these authorities,” he said.

Under the Patriot Act, the national security letters give the FBI authority to demand that telephone companies, Internet service providers, banks, credit bureaus and other businesses produce personal records about their customers or subscribers. About three-fourths of the letters issued between 2003 and 2005 involved counterterror cases, with the rest for espionage investigations, the audit reported.

Shoddy record-keeping and human error were to blame for the bulk of the problems, said Justice auditors, who were careful to note they found no indication of criminal misconduct.

Still, “we believe the improper or illegal uses we found involve serious misuses of national security letter authorities,” the audit concluded.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller said many of the problems were being fixed, including by building a better internal data collection system and training employees on the limits of their authority. The FBI has also scrapped the use of “exigent letters,” which were used to gather information without the signed permission of an authorized official.

“But the question should and must be asked: How could this happen? Who is accountable?” Mueller said. “And the answer to that is, I am to be held accountable.”

Mueller said he had not been asked to resign, nor had he discussed doing so with other officials. He said employees would probably face disciplinary actions, not criminal charges, following an internal investigation of how the violations occurred.

The audit incensed lawmakers in Congress already seething over the recent dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys. Democrats who lead House and Senate judiciary and intelligence oversight panels promised hearings on the findings. Several lawmakers - Republicans and Democrats alike - raised the possibility of scaling back the FBI’s authority.

“It’s up to Congress to end these abuses as soon as possible,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The Patriot Act was never intended to allow the Bush administration to violate fundamental constitutional rights.”

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the audit shows “a major failure by Justice to uphold the law.”

“If the Justice Department is going to enforce the law, it must follow it as well,” said Hoekstra, of Michigan.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the audit proves Congress must amend the Patriot Act to require judicial approval anytime the FBI wants access to sensitive personal information.

“The attorney general and the FBI are part of the problem, and they cannot be trusted to be part of the solution,” said ACLU’s executive director, Anthony D. Romero.

Both Gonzales and Mueller called the national security letters vital tools in pursuing terrorists and spies in the United States. “They are the bread and butter of our investigations,” Mueller said.

Gonzales asked the inspector general to issue a follow-up audit in July on whether the FBI had followed recommendations to fix the problems.

Fine’s annual review is required by Congress, over the objections of the Bush administration. It concluded that the number of national security letters requested by the FBI skyrocketed in the years after the Patriot Act became law. Each letter issued may contain several requests.

In 2000, for example, the FBI issued an estimated 8,500 requests. That number peaked in 2004 with 56,000. Overall, the FBI reported issuing 143,074 requests in national security letters between 2003 and 2005.

But that did not include an additional 8,850 requests that were never recorded in the FBI’s database, the audit found. A sample review of 77 case files at four FBI field offices showed that agents had underreported the number of national security letter requests by about 22 percent.

Additionally, the audit found, the FBI identified 26 possible violations in its use of the letters, including failing to get proper authorization, making improper requests under the law and unauthorized collection of telephone or Internet e-mail records.

The FBI also used exigent letters to quickly get information - sometimes in non-emergency situations - without going through proper channels. In at least 700 cases, these letters were sent to three telephone companies to get billing records and subscriber information, the audit found.

At least someone is watching them. I don’t trust the FBI.

Funny how this gets no replies here.

Hey conservatives…how bout that PATRIOT Act… thank God you guys want a small government to leave you alone and let you live your own lives… yea, Democrats are the bad guys…

Bullshit.

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
Funny how this gets no replies here.
[/quote]

Perhaps it got no replies because it went without saying that this would be abused? I don’t know.

Gonzalez, and Ashcroft before him, have been constantly repeating the “trust us” mantra for years. Gonzalez has said before that because the powers haven’t been abused, we should leave them in place… ignoring the fact that many of these powers are not subject to regular oversight.

Frankly, I am amazed that an audit was performed and that anything was actually reported.

And gee, nobody seemed to believe me whan I saind the Patriot Act left the door open for sickening abuse. The FBI can suck my dick. That statement alone probably put me on a watch list.
The patriot act should be renamed the KGB act, we’re watching you! It must go, I’d rather take my chances with the terrorists.

[quote]nephorm wrote:
FightinIrish26 wrote:
Funny how this gets no replies here.

Perhaps it got no replies because it went without saying that this would be abused? I don’t know.
[/quote]

I’m just saying this because two years ago everyone here laughed at me when I kept ranting and raving about the ridiculous potential for abuse of power.

Where are my neocons now? JeffR? Anyone want to defend all this now in the name of safety?

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
nephorm wrote:
FightinIrish26 wrote:
Funny how this gets no replies here.

Perhaps it got no replies because it went without saying that this would be abused? I don’t know.

I’m just saying this because two years ago everyone here laughed at me when I kept ranting and raving about the ridiculous potential for abuse of power.

Where are my neocons now? JeffR? Anyone want to defend all this now in the name of safety?[/quote]

Of course not. Remember, if we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to worry about…except loss of freedom and any privacy we once ever had in this country…you know, insignificant things like that.

I do remember being asked for examples of abuse of power as if this just couldn’t happen. It is funny how silent it is.

Bump. Again.

Still no conservatives? Anywhere?

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
Bump. Again.

Still no conservatives? Anywhere? [/quote]

They tend to hush up when the truth is in their face.

Without more facts it’s hard to have a reaction.

Note this reaction from former U.S. attorney Andy McCarthy:

http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YjQ1NDIwZTQ3MTAyYjg1OTdiYWJmZTZlYmI0ODliOGU=

The Problems at the FBI Are Overblown [Andy McCarthy]

For reasons previously noted ( http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=ODA2OTU3OTUwNGZkNDYzNGE0MTRiMTY5ODJlOTQzYjk= ), I’m not a big fan of National Security Letters. But, that said, media accounts of the DOJ Inspector General’s report about problems with the FBI’s use of NSL’s have blown those problems way out of proportion. That’s the conclusion of an analysis by Ron Kessler today at NewsMax ( http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2007/3/12/212257.shtml ). Kessler is worth heeding on this ? he has followed the FBI for years and has not pulled punches in criticizing the Bureau when they’ve had it coming.

As Kessler points out, the IG stressed that the problems here are sloppy mistakes, not “abuses” ? as the privacy obsessives in the press claim. There’s no indication whatsoever that the Bureau has engaged in Big Brother tactics to spy on innocent Americans.

What they’ve basically done is two-fold: they’ve accidentally transposed (or otherwise gotten wrong) phone numbers for which calling-activity records were sought (meaning they got the records for the wrong number), and they’ve accepted from overly cooperative NSL recipients information that went beyond what the NSL requested.

As human error is not going to be eliminated any time soon, it should come as no surprise that either of these problems can ? and frequently do ? happen even when government pursues information by subpoena, the method preferred by critics (including me). Anyone who has ever dialed a wrong number should be able to understand that. Indeed, as Kessler notes, the Washington Post, in its breathless page-one story on the IG report, included a table which inadvertently stated that the IG had examined a total of 273 NSLs over a three-year period. The number was actually 293 (as the Post had correctly stated in its accompanying story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/09/AR2007030902353.html ). Don’t hold your breath waiting for a page-one story on media errors.

The Bureau has made the sorts of mistakes here that make its usual defenders (like me) cringe. Without a malevolent bone in their bodies, agents failed to keep adequate records of what they’d initially asked for and failed to go carefully through what was disclosed to them to make sure it was limited to what they really needed. These are dumb mistakes. They happen too often, but they are not sinister. And to its credit, the FBI did its own internal review, found and forthrightly reported 26 other errors that the IG had not uncovered, and put in place an improved training and record-keeping regime to avoid a recurrence of these problems.

So let’s get a grip. The errors are worthy of being criticized. But the suggestion that Director Mueller or AG Gonzales should be made to walk the plank over this controversy is absurd.

[quote]BostonBarrister wrote:
Without more facts it’s hard to have a reaction.

Note this reaction from former U.S. attorney Andy McCarthy:

http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YjQ1NDIwZTQ3MTAyYjg1OTdiYWJmZTZlYmI0ODliOGU=

The Problems at the FBI Are Overblown [Andy McCarthy]

For reasons previously noted ( http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=ODA2OTU3OTUwNGZkNDYzNGE0MTRiMTY5ODJlOTQzYjk= ), I’m not a big fan of National Security Letters. But, that said, media accounts of the DOJ Inspector General’s report about problems with the FBI’s use of NSL’s have blown those problems way out of proportion. That’s the conclusion of an analysis by Ron Kessler today at NewsMax ( http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2007/3/12/212257.shtml ). Kessler is worth heeding on this ? he has followed the FBI for years and has not pulled punches in criticizing the Bureau when they’ve had it coming.

As Kessler points out, the IG stressed that the problems here are sloppy mistakes, not “abuses” ? as the privacy obsessives in the press claim. There’s no indication whatsoever that the Bureau has engaged in Big Brother tactics to spy on innocent Americans.

What they’ve basically done is two-fold: they’ve accidentally transposed (or otherwise gotten wrong) phone numbers for which calling-activity records were sought (meaning they got the records for the wrong number), and they’ve accepted from overly cooperative NSL recipients information that went beyond what the NSL requested.

As human error is not going to be eliminated any time soon, it should come as no surprise that either of these problems can ? and frequently do ? happen even when government pursues information by subpoena, the method preferred by critics (including me). Anyone who has ever dialed a wrong number should be able to understand that. Indeed, as Kessler notes, the Washington Post, in its breathless page-one story on the IG report, included a table which inadvertently stated that the IG had examined a total of 273 NSLs over a three-year period. The number was actually 293 (as the Post had correctly stated in its accompanying story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/09/AR2007030902353.html ). Don’t hold your breath waiting for a page-one story on media errors.

The Bureau has made the sorts of mistakes here that make its usual defenders (like me) cringe. Without a malevolent bone in their bodies, agents failed to keep adequate records of what they’d initially asked for and failed to go carefully through what was disclosed to them to make sure it was limited to what they really needed. These are dumb mistakes. They happen too often, but they are not sinister. And to its credit, the FBI did its own internal review, found and forthrightly reported 26 other errors that the IG had not uncovered, and put in place an improved training and record-keeping regime to avoid a recurrence of these problems.

So let’s get a grip. The errors are worthy of being criticized. But the suggestion that Director Mueller or AG Gonzales should be made to walk the plank over this controversy is absurd.[/quote]

And a US government official would admit to the FBI breaking the law on purpose because…?

Someones lying here. I’m guessing both.

[quote]BostonBarrister wrote:

The Bureau has made the sorts of mistakes here that make its usual defenders (like me) cringe. Without a malevolent bone in their bodies, agents failed to keep adequate records of what they’d initially asked for and failed to go carefully through what was disclosed to them to make sure it was limited to what they really needed. These are dumb mistakes. They happen too often, but they are not sinister. And to its credit, the FBI did its own internal review, found and forthrightly reported 26 other errors that the IG had not uncovered, and put in place an improved training and record-keeping regime to avoid a recurrence of these problems.
[/quote]

I don’t know whether or not they are malevolent. I suppose most are, but I also suspect that FBI agents care more about getting caught than invading privacy… not that they do it purposefully now, but if it was legal they would do so constantly.

There needs to be a very close eye kept on this. Thanks for the response Boston…your fellow “conservatives” have clammed up and are looking the other way.

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
BostonBarrister wrote:

The Bureau has made the sorts of mistakes here that make its usual defenders (like me) cringe. Without a malevolent bone in their bodies, agents failed to keep adequate records of what they’d initially asked for and failed to go carefully through what was disclosed to them to make sure it was limited to what they really needed. These are dumb mistakes. They happen too often, but they are not sinister. And to its credit, the FBI did its own internal review, found and forthrightly reported 26 other errors that the IG had not uncovered, and put in place an improved training and record-keeping regime to avoid a recurrence of these problems.

I don’t know whether or not they are malevolent. I suppose most are, but I also suspect that FBI agents care more about getting caught than invading privacy… not that they do it purposefully now, but if it was legal they would do so constantly.

There needs to be a very close eye kept on this. Thanks for the response Boston…your fellow “conservatives” have clammed up and are looking the other way.[/quote]

I generally support the Patriot Act. Of course it has potential for abuse. It also has the potential to ease investigations into terrorism cases. The abuses need to be eliminated, not the ability to investigate.

This seems more like stupidity then abuse. I’d be real concerned if Mueller got caught covering it up. I actually think it’s great they are getting called out over this. It seems like a lot of over reaction but that is to be expected in these times.

The more important issue would be if the material they obtained, illegally, was used as evidence on a prosecution, and the person was convicted. The flip side of that is supposed they break up a terror cell, ready to plant a bomb, and it is tossed out because they found out about it thru a warrantless search that did not have the proper paperwork executed. To many that may be a non-issue. A regular rider of the NYC subway’s may have a whole different perspective.

Not so much losing interest in the topic by the way…just losing interest in the politics forum in general. It’s been overun lately. I don’t think 4 veteran posters have discussed an issue w/o some nut making a wacko post and hijacking the thread in quite awhile.

Come on guys, the FBI says it was an “accident”. Just a big misunderstanding, that’s all.

[quote]Brad61 wrote:
Come on guys, the FBI says it was an “accident”. Just a big misunderstanding, that’s all. [/quote]

Like Waco and Ruby Ridge.

[quote]Brad61 wrote:
Come on guys, the FBI says it was an “accident”. Just a big misunderstanding, that’s all. [/quote]

If you look really hard between the overheated rhetoric in the “news” story (in quotes because of its tone and emphasis – and adjective choices), you’d see the auditors said the same thing:

Shoddy record-keeping and human error were to blame for the bulk of the problems, said Justice auditors, who were careful to note they found no indication of criminal misconduct.

[quote]BostonBarrister wrote:
Shoddy record-keeping and human error were to blame for the bulk of the problems, said Justice auditors, who were careful to note they found no indication of criminal misconduct.
[/quote]

Oh, I know. It was just a filing problem. Stupid paperwork!

Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.