People who remember J. Edgar Hoover's FBI will not be surprised to read FBI broke law for years in phone record searches in today's Washington Post. The illegal searches were justified by fake emergencies. When an internal whistle blower started asking questions, they were justified by illegal (“blanket”) authorizations (the FBI used to accept that search authorizations, even retroactive emergency ones, must be justified in writing and particularized).
Nor will readers with any sense of history be surprised to learn that the FBI says there is nothing to worry about, move along:
FBI officials said they are confident that the safeguards enacted in 2007 have ended the problems.
However, readers who recall the Post when it was a newspaper will perhaps be a little startled that the Post keeps referring to the illegal requests and faked paperwork as “technical” violations of the law. Readers whose memory goes back to, oh, 1972, may also wonder how it is that this fact appears in the next-to-last paragraph of a fairly long story:
Among those whose phone records were searched improperly were journalists for The Washington Post and the New York Times, according to interviews with government officials.
And then there is this gem, which will startle all but the most harden cynic:
lawyers have now concluded there was no need for the after-the-fact approval process.
So, no paper trail next time! (Could this be the new procedures enacted in 2007?)
All that's left is the 5pm Friday night press release that an investigation has determined that no discipline is warranted … except maybe for the whistle blower.