Civil Liberties

Who Could Have Foreseen the FBI's Failure to Oversee Itself?

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Members of Congress, including Republicans as well as Democrats, are dismayed that the FBI has failed to adequately supervise itself to prevent misuse of "national security letters" demanding phone, email, and financial records. A recent report from Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine revealed, among other abuses, that the FBI was keeping incomplete records of NSLs and asserting "exigent circumstances" that did not exist. The legislators who voted to give the FBI the authority to unilaterally grab whatever records it thinks might be useful for investigating terrorism are amazed at the lack of proper oversight:

"I just want to convey to you how upset many of us are who have defended this program and have believed it is necessary to the protection of our country," Representative Dan Lungren, Republican of California, told Valerie E. Caproni, the bureau's general counsel….

Representative Darrell Issa, also a California Republican, said he was "shocked" by the bureau's transgressions and suggested that they might have broken the law.

"If what was done was done by a private-sector individual, wouldn't the F.B.I. be arresting them?" Mr. Issa asked. "Wouldn't the U.S. attorneys be prosecuting people who played fast and loose with these rules?"

How to prevent such abuses? I'm just thinking out loud here, but what if someone outside the FBI, maybe even in a different branch of government, reviewed these record demands before businesses were required to comply with them?

Kerry Howley considered the NSL scandal earlier this week.

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  1. I think the FBI is wonderful.

  2. I’m just thinking out loud here, but what if someone outside the FBI, maybe even in a different branch of government, reviewed these record demands before businesses were required to comply with them?

    Why do you hate America, Jacob? Why do you want the terrorists to win?

  3. So, this new Congress has only been in a couple of months and the FBI is misbehaving worse than under Hoover? hehehe 🙂

  4. In the spirit of full disclosure, it should be noted that Rep. Issa made his fortune in car alarms. Yes, that is his voice warning you to, “Step Back! Protected by Viper!”

  5. Can they do like that place in New Zealand and sue themselves?? I’d like to see that…

  6. Jimmydageek: Screw that, what I want to know is whether or not they can execute a no-knock warrant on themselves.

  7. “I can tell you that we’ve had a lot of soul-searching at the F.B.I.” since the inspector general placed “an F on our report card,” she said.

    Probably didn’t have a warrant for that, either.

  8. How to prevent such abuses? I’m just thinking out loud here, but what if someone outside the FBI, maybe even in a different branch of government, reviewed these record demands before businesses were required to comply with them?

    This is a job for. . .The Censor!

    And no, I am not obsessive. Merely focused.

  9. How to prevent such abuses? I’m just thinking out loud here, but what if someone outside the FBI, maybe even in a different branch of government, reviewed these record demands before businesses were required to comply with them?

    You would have to rewrite the Constitution to include this new concept you’re proposing. I think you should call it “checks and balances.” I don’t think you could get Bush to go for it, though.

  10. Dan Lundgren is chastising law enforcement officials for overstepping their bounds.

    Dan Lundgren. It’s tame to take a hard look in the mirror when you’re to the right of Dan Lundgren on the reach of law enforcement.

  11. The legislators who voted to give the FBI the authority to unilaterally grab whatever records it thinks might be useful for investigating terrorism are amazed at the lack of proper oversight

    We have a Bill of Rights to restrain government because throughout history governments have needed restraining. What part of “nature of the beast” do these people not understand.

    If Efrem Zimbalist Jr. were dead he’d be spinning in his grave.

  12. For the most part, the people of this counrty are more interested in arguing with each other about which side is better or worse instead of paying attention to the on coming train. They are more interested in calling each other names than finding truth.

    I guess I am showing my age if I admit I know who Efrem Zimbalist Jr is.

  13. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    How I wish SOMEONE in the federal government could read English.

  14. This just goes to show that they knew all along these powers were going to be abused and how much of a stretch was it to think they would to begin with. These are the idiots we put in charge of not only our supposed freedom but our security as well. I feel neither and I want my fucking money back!

  15. How far up their own asses can this president, government, and the FBI stick their own heads?

    I would like to say that it is time for impeachment, butI now think that it’s time for REVOLUTION!!!!!!

  16. TrickVic,

    Didn’t you watch Remington Steele? He played Laura Holt’s dad.

  17. “I can tell you that we’ve had a lot of soul-searching at the F.B.I.”

    He says this like he expects us to believe they have souls.

  18. “I can tell you that we’ve had a lot of soul-searching at the F.B.I.”

    He says this like he expects us to believe they have souls.

    Oh, no, no. He is explicitly stating that they are hungry. It’s common knowledge that the FBI is primarily staffed by soul devourers.

  19. “Who Could Have Foreseen the FBI’s Failure to Oversee Itself?”

    Um, you guys? Over five years ago?

    Don’t be shy, go ahead and link. You were absolutely right about loosening up the standards and practices to get National Security Letters back when the Patriot Act was being debated.

  20. showing my age if I admit I know who Efrem Zimbalist Jr is

    Got you there, dude. I know who Efrem Zimbalist Senior is.

  21. I saw an explanation of this problem that goes like this:

    The FBI is a detective agency. Its primary purpose is to find those responsible for crimes already committed.

    The FBI is NOT an intelligence agency, which has a completely different purpose: to detect crimes which may occur. The FBI therefore has no idea how to go about a counter-terrorism task. So crap like this happens.

  22. So now we have yet another confirmation of the wisdom of the 4th Amendment, just as you would have yet another (ho-hum) confirmation of the law of gravity if you crumpled up a National Security Letter (or, for that matter, a copy of the Constitution) and let it fall to the ground.

    Duh.

    Must every generation rediscover these truths the hard way? At the expense of their fellow citizens? Can we now release the detainees in Guantanamo and put the violators of our Constitution there? As long as the latter are allowed to roam free and mess with our rights, the terrorists have well and truly won. Disgusting.

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