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FBI Intentionally Botching Investigations To Get More Administrative Spying...

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« on: April 16, 2008, 12:47:20 am »

 FBI Intentionally Botching Investigations To Get More Administrative Spying Powers
Declassified documents show bureau misused power purposefully

Steve Watson
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
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Newly released documents have revealed that the FBI intentionally misused investigative powers with regard to a terrorist suspect in order to slow it's own progress on the case as a justification to call for expanded administrative spying power.

The documents, obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation via the freedom of information act, show that the bureau delayed an investigation into a former North Carolina State University student, suspected of links to terrorism, by using an improper National Security Letter.

The order to do so came directly from FBI Headquarters and the bureau failed to report the misuse for almost two years.

An EFF statement reads:

    "Over the span of three days in July of 2005, FBI documents show that the bureau first obtained the educational records of the suspect with a grand jury subpoena. However, at the direction of FBI headquarters, agents returned the records and then requested them again through an improper NSL.


    Later in July of 2005, FBI Director Robert Mueller used the delay in gathering the records as an example of why the FBI needed administrative subpoena power instead of NSLs so investigations could move faster.

The NSL in this case was improper because under the PATRIOT ACT, NSL authority does not allow the government to seek educational records from universities.

An EFF Senior Senior Staff Attorney writes:

    "This report raises important questions about the FBI's use of these very powerful investigative tools... Congress should determine why FBI headquarters insisted on an improper NSL instead of using the appropriate tools, and why the FBI failed to report the misuse for almost two years."

(Article continues below)

The protections of the Fourth Amendment dictate that wiretaps to obtain the content of a phone call or an e-mail must be authorized by a court upon a showing of probable cause.

However, the FBI gets around this by classing the information it intercepts as "transactional data" about a communication, that is from whom the communication originated, to whom it was sent, how long it lasted and the like.

The bureau can collect this information under current law by asserting that it is relevant to an official investigation. It can administer a subpoena known as a National Security Letter (NSL).

According to the Justice Department's inspector general, the number of NSLs issued by the FBI soared from 8,500 in 2000 to 47,000 in 2005.

The FBI has consistently argued that NSLs are vital in order to sidestep the legal process and speed up investigations of "terror suspects".

In this case however, the NSL was used in order to SLOW down the investigation.

The actions of the FBI in this case show that it is less concerned with "fighting the war on terror" and more concerned with its own administrative clout over surveillance of everyday Americans.
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