The FBI's Experiments in Self-Supervision


Yesterday FBI Director Robert Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee the bureau's agents continued to improperly use the administrative subpoenas known as national security letters to demand personal information about Americans from financial institutions, credit bureaus, Internet service providers, and phone companies through 2006. A March 2007 report by the Justice Department's inspector general, covering 2003 through 2005, revealed that agents were unlilaterally issuing NSLs in nonemergency situations without getting the required clearance from their superiors. Mueller was offering a preview of an upcoming inspector general's report with similar findings about 2006. But all of that "predates the reforms we now have in place," Mueller said. Evidently the FBI now has a rule that says agents have to follow the rules.

A PDF of the 2007 I.G. report is available here.

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  1. Cops don’t make other cops follow the rules. Who knew?

    Aren’t those national security letters the ones where they can demand you hand over information to them and you can’t tell anyone, or they throw you in jail? Tell your wife in bed, and you’re fucked (not in the good way)? Tell your patient they asked for his medical records, and you go to the clink?


    They are just trying to do their part to stick it to OPEC, by not burning all that gas driving back and forth to the courthouse, and presenting actual warrants to actual judges for actual review (it’s, like, “virtual justice”, dude).

  3. Rules? There are no rules to follow, just guidelines. Words like “rules” and “laws” infer consequence and sanction for not abiding by them. Now if they are in a bill it might give them the appearance of being a law or a rule, but without enforcement it is as Obama and Deval Patrick “just words”.

  4. Is this the most likely agency to look into the folks in Mississippi? HAHAHAHAHA says Gov. Barbour

  5. Wait, you mean that executive power wielded without judicial oversight will result in abuses and waste of resources?

    That can’t possibly be right. Somebody get Shannon Love in here. He’ll explain how this is working just fine.

  6. There needs to be an incentive for some cops of some sort to find and arrest dirty cops/agents not following procedure/committing crimes.

    Currently, there is zero incentive. Why would an internal affairs investigator bother with actually doing his job? His fellow cops don’t want him to–he might arrest them. His boss doesn’t want him to–makes the department look bad. The politicians don’t want him to–makes the police look corrupt, people don’t trust them, want the politician to do something. Other agencies don’t want to do it, because the next time an FBI agent gets pulled over with a BAC of 0.15, he wants a good relationship with the police.

    It’s basically impossible. The only thing I can think of is a competition or rewards based system, where IA people get paid for the number of convictions of dirty cops they get. But then that raises the same issues that occur today with prosecutors and padding their resumes.

  7. Episiarch-

    Yeah, I can see how an incentive system might backfire. The IA cop arrests some guy for egregious behavior, and all the other cops are pissed at him. So then he finds a technicality to get the very people who snitched on the bad cop, and now the other cops are happy because the snitches got taken down. And the IA cop has just doubled his reward money.

  8. What wrong with that?

  9. But you see, the FBI has reformed its internal practices, so we can trust them now.

    When I read the AP version of this story this morning there was a strong subtext of this idea that these problems all were in the past and there is nothing to be suspicious about.
    This is merely a technical matter that should not concern you mere citizens. Go on about your day.

  10. Who watches the watchers? Okay, what am I going to say next?

  11. Rules? There are no rules for the FBI to follow, just guidelines. Words like “rules” and “laws” infer consequence(s), and sanction(s) and only apply to us proles for not abiding by them.

    There, fixed for ya. 🙂

  12. But all of that “predates the reforms we now have in place,” Mueller said. Evidently the FBI now has a rule that says agents have to follow the rules.

    Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

  13. Pro Lib:

    who watches the watchers watching the first set of watchers? huh? I got you there!

  14. “Evidently the FBI now has a rule that says agents have to follow the rules.”

    Great. Kind’a like our TX road signs that state “Observe all road signs”.

  15. Or as PC might put it, they have a guideline to follow the guideline.

  16. Gasp! The FBI abusing national security letters? Not possible. We’ve always been able trust the Bush Team to check it’s power and not abuse it. After all Bush has made it quite clear you he servres. Right? He’s a champion of personal freedom and privacy. Right? Hello? Is anyone other than chrickets out there?

  17. If you’ve got a problem w/ it, then that more or less means you’re up to no good.

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