Congress Warns FBI on PATRIOT Act Use

The Associated Press wrote the Mar. 20, 2007 article "Lawmakers Warn FBI Over Spy Powers" which stated:

"Republicans and Democrats sternly warned the FBI on Tuesday that it could lose its broad power to collect telephone, e-mail and financial records to hunt terrorists after revelations of widespread abuses of the authority detailed in a recent internal investigation.

Their threats came as the Justice Department's chief watchdog, Glenn A. Fine, told the House Judiciary Committee that the FBI engaged in widespread and serious misuse of its authority in illegally collecting the information from Americans and foreigners through so-called national security letters.

...'From the attorney general on down, you should be ashamed of yourself,' said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. 'We stretched to try to give you the tools necessary to make America safe, and it is very, very clear that you've abused that trust.' If Congress revokes some of the expansive law enforcement powers it granted in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Issa said, 'America may be less safe, but the Constitution will be more secure, and it will be because of your failure to deal with this in a serious fashion.'

...'This was a serious breach of trust,' said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the Judiciary chairman. 'The department had converted this tool into a handy shortcut to illegally gather vast amounts of private information while at the same time significantly underreporting its activities to Congress.'

...In a review of headquarters files and a sampling of just four of the FBI's 56 field offices, Fine found 48 violations of law or presidential directives during between 2003 and 2005, including failure to get proper authorization, making improper requests and unauthorized collection of telephone or Internet e-mail records. He estimated that 'a significant number of ... violations throughout the FBI have not been identified or reported.'

...In 2001, the Patriot Act eliminated any requirement that the records belong to someone under suspicion. Now an innocent person's records can be obtained if FBI field agents consider them merely relevant to an ongoing terrorism or spying investigation.

Fine's review, authorized by Congress over Bush administration objections, concluded the number of national security letters requested by the FBI skyrocketed after the Patriot Act became law in 2001. Fine found more than 700 cases in which FBI agents obtained telephone records through 'exigent letters' which asserted that grand jury subpoenas had been requested for the data, when in fact such subpoenas never been sought."
Mar. 20, 2007 Associated Press