Chairman Conyers on New FBI Report on NSLs
Conyers: New FBI Report Confirms "Worst Fears"
(Washington, DC)- Today, FBI officials briefed House Judiciary Committee staff on a new draft audit report detailing the bureau's use of National Security Letters (NSLs). The briefing served to update and correct prior statements to Congress, since the release of an earlier Inspector General report. The FBI confirmed that they found more abuses in the use of NSLs than the IG's report had originally found. FBI officials say they are launching a new compliance program as a result.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) had the following statement:
"The Patriot Act and its renewal was rammed through Congress with the repeated claim that there was not one instance in which the Act had been abused. We now know that information on law abiding Americans was illegally obtained and kept in secret files. This confirms some of our worst fears about what happens when you give the government too much power with too little oversight."
John Solomon, Washington Post - June 14, 2007
An internal FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, far more than was documented in a Justice Department report in March that ignited bipartisan congressional criticism.
The new audit covers just 10 percent of the bureau's national security investigations since 2002, and so the mistakes in the FBI's domestic surveillance efforts probably number several thousand, bureau officials said in interviews. The earlier report found 22 violations in a much smaller sampling.
The vast majority of the new violations were instances in which telephone companies and Internet providers gave agents phone and e-mail records the agents did not request and were not authorized to collect. The agents retained the information anyway in their files, which mostly concerned suspected terrorist or espionage activities.
But two dozen of the newly-discovered violations involved agents' requests for information that U.S. law did not allow them to have, according to the audit results provided to The Washington Post. Only two such examples were identified earlier in the smaller sample.
FBI officials said the results confirmed what agency supervisors and outside critics feared, namely that many agents did not understand or follow the required legal procedures and paperwork requirements when collecting personal information with one of the most sensitive and powerful intelligence-gathering tools of the post-Sept. 11 era -- the National Security Letter, or NSL.