FBI in hundreds of privacy violations, report finds
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."
| 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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