ADC Troubled by Findings of Inspector General’s Report Concerning FBI Abuse of Power
Washington, DC | March 13, 2007 | The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) welcomes the report of the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (IG) issued on Friday, March 9, but is troubled by the findings of misuse of National Security Letters (NSL) by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). To read the IG’s report in its entirety, see: http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/special/s0703b/final.pdf
The IG report notes that FBI agents sometimes demanded personal data on people and businesses without official authorization and in other cases improperly obtained records in non-emergency circumstances. Under the Patriot Act, NSLs give the FBI authority to access individual or business telephone, internet, bank, credit, library, medical, and other records without judicial approval. However, the report found that the FBI had failed to establish the proper oversight guidelines regarding the use of NSLs and misused information subsequently obtained. The report concluded that for three years the FBI underreported to Congress how often it used NSLs to get data and/or records. The report also found that the FBI used exigent letters (emergency letters not requiring the signed permission of an authorized official) in non emergency situations. The IG report said poor record keeping and human error were to blame for the bulk of these problems and said they found no indication of criminal misconduct.
In one instance a University was asked to provide information relating to applications for admission, housing information, emergency contacts and campus health records. This illegally obtained information was then shared with several US intelligence agencies and foreign governments.
ADC has consistently voiced its concerns with the various sections of the Patriot Act, noting that the Act allows for widespread abuse of power and infringes on civil and privacy rights. In 2003, ADC along with other organizations challenged Section 215 of the Patriot Act which expands the ability of the FBI to secretly obtain personal records and belongings of anyone living in the US including US citizens and permanent residents without their consent or knowledge, thereby circumventing the individual’s ability to challenge the infringement in a court of law. In 2006, ADC filed amicus (friend of the court) brief in cases related to warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency (NSA).
ADC recognizes FBI Director Robert Mueller’s immediate attention to these problems. Director Mueller has stopped the use of exigent letters and the implementation of limitations and better training. However, ADC believes stronger Congressional oversight is needed. Several Senators have commented on the situation:
To read Sen. Sununu’s statement please click here: http://www.sununu.senate.gov/pressapp/record.cfm?id=270435
To read Sen. Feingold’s statement please click here: http://feingold.senate.gov/~feingold/statements/07/03/20070309.htm
To read Sen. Kennedy’s statement please click here: http://kennedy.senate.gov/newsroom/press_release.cfm?id=18b10909-a9da-4ec3-88f5-9e4b5202b103
To read Sen. Leahy’s statement please click here: http://leahy.senate.gov/press/200703/030907.html