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Posted at 2:35 PM ET, 01/31/2011

FBI in hundreds of privacy violations, report finds

By Jeff Stein

The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported nearly 800 violations of privacy laws and regulations to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board from 2001 to 2008, according to records obtained by a watchdog group.

The San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said it had also uncovered “indications that the FBI may have committed upwards of 40,000 possible intelligence violations in the 9 years since 9/11.” It said it could find no records of whether anyone was disciplined for the infractions.

The group drew its findings from about 2,500 documents it obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The reports of serious misconduct by FBI agents included "lying in declarations to courts, using improper evidence to obtain grand jury subpoenas, and accessing password-protected files without a warrant," the EFF said.

Valerie Caproni, the FBI's general counsel, said that the violations were mostly technical or procedural.

“The number of substantive violations of someone's rights is very small and we take them very seriously," she told the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the findings on Sunday.

“These guidelines were put in place to prevent civil rights abuses," responded Mark Rumold, the EFF lawyer who obtained the documents. "And when the FBI is glibly treating violations as technical mistakes, it's indicative of a broader problem — the FBI's attitude toward dedicated, effective oversight.”

Caproni told the Times that she was “confident that, by and large, 99.9 percent of the time our agents are acting in compliance with the Constitution, the statutes, executive orders and FBI and DOJ policies on civil liberties.”

The disclosure comes as Congress grapples with renewing the USA Patriot Act, passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which loosened restrictions on U.S. intelligence agencies to obtain personal information on American citizens. It expires in February.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has proposed putting restrictions on domestic intelligence-gathering. His office said he would have no comment on the EFF report until he had had a chance to read it.

But on Jan. 26, when he introduced his USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act, Leahy said the legislation would "increase judicial oversight of government surveillance powers that capture information on Americans."

By Jeff Stein  | January 31, 2011; 2:35 PM ET
Categories:  Congress, Homeland Security, Intelligence, Justice/FBI, Lawandcourts  | Tags:  Electronic Frontier Foundation; Sen. Patrick Leahy  
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Next: Ex-interrogator describes mistaken Iraq raids

Comments

Let the "Patriot" Act die.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 31, 2011 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Patriot Act must go. Defund DHS.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | January 31, 2011 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Only invade the privacy rights of Liveral Democrats, Do that routinely.

Posted by: JHG_sec405 | January 31, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

"Valerie Caproni, the FBI's general counsel, said that the violations were mostly technical or procedural."

That's some incredible hubris there. I agree with the earlier poster who recommended defunding them. A federal agency that breaks federal law? A perfect target for budget cuts.

Posted by: wideblacksky | January 31, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

we let Obama do a lot of things that normal, middle of the road folks wouoldn't stand for becsasue well we understand the political realities (ie Bush tax cuts, etc) but if he doesn't scrap the patriot Act peice of garbage, he's lost my vote for good. techincalities, the FBI calls it. i call violating the constituion. where r the strict constitutionalist re-thuglicans when we need them.

Posted by: submarinerssn774 | January 31, 2011 4:53 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if this includes those hundreds of FBI files that somehow ended up in the hands of then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton?

Chuck Colson did time in prison of mishandling ONE confidential FBI file.

Hillary did the same with HUNDREDS and has yet to be charged.

Criminal, really.

Posted by: JustJoe3 | January 31, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Sen. Leahy wants to enact a law that would "increase judicial oversight of government surveillance powers that capture information on Americans". We already have one. It's called the Bill of Rights, most especially the Fourth Amendment. I recommend it.

Posted by: ozma1 | January 31, 2011 5:44 PM | Report abuse

If the Egyptians can throw out their Emergency Laws, why can't we let the Patriot Act expire?

Posted by: caribis | January 31, 2011 6:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm not aware of our Supreme Court ever approving 'technical violations' of our constitution.
I look forward to the day they affirm this wise decision.

Posted by: mtpeaks | January 31, 2011 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Probably between the partriot act and the gloves of civilization coming off and the many intelligence and enforcement agencies running around and the homeland security moving into police stations everywhere the violation of rights is endemic at this point. And most likely there are so many different secret programs for secret reasons looking at all kindos of people who they have all kinds of reasons not to like there is lots of personal aggendas working in unknown ways. And most of them are more personal than just email and internet surveillance... once gloves come off it is very hard to find out where and how they should go back on.

Posted by: Wildthing1 | January 31, 2011 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Who'd thunk that as we're busy trading in our constitutional liberties for supposed security, Egyptians are doing just the opposite.
My only question is, are they ahead of us, or just catching up with us?

Posted by: mtpeaks | January 31, 2011 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Freedom of the Press now dead in Hungary. State-owned media singing praises of government. Christian Democrats rammed through a law to silence the Press. Watch for trouble there and we'll watch from here.

Posted by: jobandon | January 31, 2011 8:37 PM | Report abuse

The FBI is an organized criminal enterprise that commits crimes against American citizens. They burglarize private homes & private offices and steal private property. Just like the rest of the US Govt's Secret police the FBI is just a pack of thugs, crooks, and criminals.

Posted by: max21c | January 31, 2011 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Patriot Act should go. I do not trust anyone in this administration with such powers.

Posted by: annnort | January 31, 2011 10:04 PM | Report abuse

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