Friday, March 7, 2008

More FBI Privacy Violations Confirmed

Apparently we've got more to worry about than just illegal wiretapping, government surveillance, data breaches, and REAL ID. Now - due to hearings being held by Democrats on the hill - we know the FBI has been improperly accessing Americans' telephone records, credit reports and Internet traffic for fourth straight years! As one would expect - these privacy abuses - according to the FBI are a result of investigations aimed at tracking terrorists and spies.

Not to worry though, the FBI claims its not their fault, but rather, its the fault of banks, telecommunication companies and other private businesses giving them more personal client data than was requested.

Doesn't that make you feel safer to know? Its not the governments fault, its the corporations that store all of our private information! And remember, they're violating our rights for our own benefit! Thank you FBI, knowing that you're invading my privacy does put my mind at ease, what's the constitution anyway?

Yes, I'm being sarcastic. Here's some of the New York Times story covering these rather unbelievable revelations:

An audit by the inspector general last year found the FBI demanded personal records without official authorization or otherwise collected more data than allowed in dozens of cases between 2003 and 2005. Additionally, last year's audit found that the FBI had underreported to Congress how many national security letters were requested by more than 4,600. The new audit, which examines use of national security letters issued in 2006, ''will identify issues similar to those in the report issued last March,'' Mueller told senators.


The number of national security letters issued by the FBI skyrocketed in the years after the Patriot Act became law in 2001, according to last year's report. Fine's annual review is required by Congress, over the objections of the Bush administration. In 2005, for example, Fine's office found more than 1,000 violations within 19,000 FBI requests to obtain 47,000 records. Each letter issued may contain several requests.


Speaking before the FBI chief, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., urged Mueller to be more vigilant in correcting what he called ''widespread illegal and improper use of national security letters.''

''Everybody wants to stop terrorists. But we also, though, as Americans, we believe in our privacy rights and we want those protected,'' Leahy said. ''There has to be a better chain of command for this. You cannot just have an FBI agent who decides he'd like to obtain Americans' records, bank records or anything else and do it just because they want to.''


''The credibility factor shows there needs to be outside oversight,'' said former FBI agent Michael German, now a national security adviser for the American Civil Liberties Union. He also cast doubt on the FBI's reforms. ''There were guidelines before, and there were laws before, and the FBI violated those laws,'' German said. ''And the idea that new guidelines would make a difference, I think cuts against rationality.''

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

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