More Erosion of Police Oversight in the U.S.

From EPIC:

Documents obtained by EPIC in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit reveal FBI agents expressing frustration that the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, an office that reviews FBI search requests, had not approved applications for orders under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. A subsequent memo refers to “recent changes” allowing the FBI to “bypass”; the office. EPIC is expecting to receive further information about this matter.

Some background:

Under Section 215, the FBI must show only “relevance” to a foreign intelligence or terrorism investigation to obtain vast amounts of personal information. It is unclear why the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review did not approve these applications. The FBI has not revealed this information, nor did it explain whether other search methods had failed.

Remember, the issue here is not whether or not the FBI can engage in counterterrorism. The issue is the erosion of judicial oversight—the only check we have on police power. And this power grab is dangerous regardless of which party is in the White House at the moment.

Posted on December 16, 2005 at 10:03 AM18 Comments


Shahms King December 16, 2005 10:26 AM

Typo correction: The last sentence says:
“this power grap is damgerous” rather than “this power grab is dangerous”.

jammit December 16, 2005 11:05 AM

I’m not against making or changing laws, but what happened to the public voting on things? The only thing these new laws provide protection to are the people who make them, not us the little guy. I keep hearing the same lame words “for protection” over and over, but I don’t see how the general public is being protected by it.

ac December 16, 2005 11:19 AM

I understand the sentiment, but it isn’t just as dangerous “regardless of which party is in the White House”. For example, if a Democratic administration was making such moves, the Republican-controlled Congress would be starting investigations and even impeachment proceedings, and the Republican-controlled courts would be declaring that such actions go beyond Constitutional limits.

Division of government is a form of oversight in its own right–it simply becomes irrelevant when one party controls all branches, as is the case now.

ARL December 16, 2005 11:41 AM

“And this power grap is damgerous regardless of which party is in the White House at the moment.”

History has shown us that well meaning laws used by “law and order” parties were later used to the ill of all when their opponents gained power.

It should be trivial to arrange for a judge to sit down and review these things to issue a proper warrant.

cdmiller December 16, 2005 11:52 AM

Yesterday was Bill of Rights Day. Perhaps folks need to read the Bill of Rights again and reflect on it’s meaning and purpose. Perhaps politicians, police, etc. need a refresher course on the Bill of Rights.

Jarrod Frates December 16, 2005 12:51 PM


“I’m not against making or changing laws, but what happened to the public voting on things?”

The public doesn’t vote on federal bills, and never has. We elect representatives to do it for us. If you don’t like how your particular representatives vote, then you can work to have someone else elected in the next round.

another_bruce December 16, 2005 1:45 PM

the bill of rights is a dead letter now, remaining on the books only to mock us for what we once had and willingly surrendered.

AG December 16, 2005 2:04 PM

To Bruce:
What are the effects of the unpublished energy crisis on security? Are there any that would effect security systems?
For instance, lights turned out at night could affect cameras.
What about brownouts? Have there been any cases in California were power outages caused security issues?

aikimark December 16, 2005 7:26 PM

Today’s political stink is a triple shot of Patriot Act renewal consideration by congress, FBI complaints about the current Patriot Act, and a leak about presidential directive to the NSA to spy on US citizens.

Why haven’t we seen any mention of the use of Canadian intelligence service to feed US citizen data to the NSA? Moreover, no one seems to care that FBI, NSA, CIA, and DoD purchase intelligence from private companies.

Davi Ottenheimer December 16, 2005 9:31 PM

“Moreover, no one seems to care that FBI, NSA, CIA, and DoD purchase intelligence from private companies.”

You mean like ChoicePoint?

@ Pat

I swear that when I read that article earlier today it had a quote from Senator Feingold. It seems to have been replaced by a very tempered quote by Senator Schumer: “we have to be very careful, very careful”. Feingold’s statement sounded far less like Elmer Fudd and more like someone who voted against the Patriot Act in the first place.

Anyone else notice the revision?

I’ll never forget Feingold’s speech about why he (alone) voted against the Patriot Act.

And since he usually has insightful and sharp things to say I was sad to see his quote disappear. His website doesn’t show anything yet, but here’s a relevant statement from the 2004 Senate hearing on FBI oversight:

“So it does pain me to hear you [FBI Director, Robery Mueller] using the same approach that almost everyone else in the administration uses to defend USA Patriot Act. I’ve heard the president do it. I’ve heard the attorney general do it.

You say the bill has to be reenacted in exactly the same form, then you cite a bunch of provisions, Mr. Mueller, that nobody objects to. It’s a bait and switch.


For example, you take the sneak-and-peek searches — Senator Specter mentioned this — the Patriot Act could allow delayed notice of a search for potentially and indefinite period of time. In other words, instead of a judicial review and monitoring on a seven-day basis to make sure that it’s still needed, it’s indefinite.

Now, that’s not something that you’ve shown any evidence to suggest it’s necessary in order to protect us from terrorists.”

James Madison December 17, 2005 12:38 AM

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

aikimark December 17, 2005 4:19 PM

“If men were angels, no security would be necessary. Security is a tax on the honest.”

That lead us to use a different PKI — Pearlygates Key Infrastructure

I think of Security as more of an inconveience than a tax. I tell clients and fellow IT professionals that “Security without inconvenience isn’t very secure.”

* Does the church office really need multiple user IDs?
* Does the seminary college registration computer need passwords for their student IDs?

Davi Ottenheimer December 18, 2005 5:34 AM

Some strong words in President Bush’s speech today (“our enemies have learned information they should not have”), but I noticed some even stronger statements in response:

“Bush said his authority to approve what he called a ‘vital tool in our war against the terrorists’ came from his constitutional powers as commander in chief. He said that he has personally signed off on reauthorizations more than 30 times.


James Bamford, author of two books on the NSA, said the program could be problematic because it bypasses a special court set up by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to authorize eavesdropping on suspected terrorists.

‘I didn’t hear him specify any legal right, except his right as president, which in a democracy doesn’t make much sense,’ Bamford said in an interview. ‘Today, what Bush said is he went around the law, which is a violation of the law — which is illegal.'”

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