FBI Abuses of the USA Patriot Act
Since the Patriot Act was passed, administration officials have repeatedly assured the public and Congress that there have not been improper uses of that law. As recently as April 27, 2005, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified that “there has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse.”
Documents obtained by EPIC from the FBI describe thirteen cases of possible misconduct in intelligence investigations. The case numbering suggests that there were at least 153 investigations of misconduct at the FBI in 2003 alone.
These documents reveal that the Intelligence Oversight Board has investigated many instances of alleged abuse, and perhaps most critically, may not have disclosed these facts to the Congressional oversight committees charged with evaluating the Patriot Act.
According to The Washington Post
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.”
In other cases, agents obtained e-mails after a warrant expired, seized bank records without proper authority and conducted an improper “unconsented physical search,” according to the documents.
Although heavily censored, the documents provide a rare glimpse into the world of domestic spying, which is governed by a secret court and overseen by a presidential board that does not publicize its deliberations. The records are also emerging as the House and Senate battle over whether to put new restrictions on the controversial USA Patriot Act, which made it easier for the government to conduct secret searches and surveillance but has come under attack from civil liberties groups.
EPIC received these documents under FOIA, and has written to the Senate Judiciary Committee to urge hearings on the matter, and has recommended that the Attorney General be required to report to Congress when the Intelligence Oversight Board receives allegations of unlawful intelligence investigations.
This week marks the four-year anniversary of the enactment of the Patriot Act. Does anyone feel safer because of it?
EDITED TO ADD: There’s a New York Times article on the topic.