We Still Can’t Trust The FBI

It seems clear from the FBI’s own internal reports that the its agents have not changed enough since the Hoover days. And that’s a great shame, and a big problem.

The FBI has important jobs to do — perhaps, in the GW Bush world of growing numbers of people motivated to hate us, more important jobs than ever. But given the amount of power we entrust to the FBI, when its agents break the rules they become particularly dangerous.

We are not talking about the occasional minor paperwork snafu here: what we seem to be facing (again) is a pattern and practice of ignoring the rules.

FBI Papers Indicate Intelligence Violations: The FBI has conducted clandestine surveillance on some U.S. residents for as long as 18 months at a time without proper paperwork or oversight, according to previously classified documents to be released today.

Records turned over as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit also indicate that the FBI has investigated hundreds of potential violations related to its use of secret surveillance operations, which have been stepped up dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but are largely hidden from public view.

In one case, FBI agents kept an unidentified target under surveillance for at least five years — including more than 15 months without notifying Justice Department lawyers after the subject had moved from New York to Detroit. An FBI investigation concluded that the delay was a violation of Justice guidelines and prevented the department “from exercising its responsibility for oversight and approval of an ongoing foreign counterintelligence investigation of a U.S. person.”

Kudos to my friends at EPIC for getting the goods. And kudos to the honest people in the FBI who didn’t sweep these violations under the rug. The trouble is…given the extent of the violations we are now learning about, one has to wonder how many others never even got written up.

The documents provided to EPIC focus on 13 cases from 2002 to 2004 that were referred to the Intelligence Oversight Board, an arm of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board that is charged with examining violations of the laws and directives governing clandestine surveillance. Case numbers on the documents indicate that a minimum of 287 potential violations were identified by the FBI during those three years, but the actual number is certainly higher because the records are incomplete.

… in a letter to be sent today to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sobel and other EPIC officials argue that the documents show how little Congress and the public know about the use of clandestine surveillance by the FBI and other agencies. The group advocates legislation requiring the attorney general to report violations to the Senate.

The documents, EPIC writes, “suggest that there may be at least thirteen instances of unlawful intelligence investigations that were never disclosed to Congress.”

I’d write more, but I have a hurricane to cower from.

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4 Responses to We Still Can’t Trust The FBI

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  3. phil ford says:

    Something to consider before universities spend million$ upgrading their computer systems to allow easier government ‘eavesdropping.’ Orwell’s nightmare lives on.


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