Lawless FBI Intelligence Gathering Practices

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A new Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) report titled, "Patterns of Misconduct: FBI Intelligence Violations from 2001–2008" based its findings on nearly 2,500 FOIA-obtained document pages, revealing "alarming (lawless) trends…."

They suggest far more frequent civil liberty violations than previously known, including:

(1) grossly understated numbers;

(2) long delays between violations and reporting them;

(3) types of violations involved, including:

(a) investigative oversight;

(b) "abuse, misuse, or careless use of….National Security Letter (NSL) authority;" FBI, CIA and other government agencies use them (administrative subpoenas), demanding recipients turn over requested information and remain silent; no probable cause or judicial oversight is necessary;

(c) sidestepping constitutional, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and other legal principles; and

(d) complicity of ISPs, phone companies, financial institutions and credit agencies, supplying unauthorized personal information without their customers’ knowledge or consent.

(4) flagrant ones, including false declarations to courts, supplying bogus evidence to get indictments, and accessing protected documents without warrants.

Officially less than 800 violations were reported. In 2007, a Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit of only 10% of national security investigations found around 3,000, most never reported. A 2008 OIG audit discovered massive underreporting. EFF’s analysis confirmed "as many as 40,000 violations" from 9/11 through 2008.

In 1976, Gerald Ford established the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) "with specific oversight responsibilities for the legality and propriety of US intelligence activities." Since created, its work has been mostly secret. After 9/11, it failed to report a single instance of intelligence misconduct, and in 2008, Bush removed its ability to refer violations to the Attorney General for criminal investigation or oversee intelligence operations, effectively making it impotent. Obama changed little, continuing lawless Bush practices.

Original guidelines were established to protect citizen constitutional rights from intrusive, overreaching intelligence investigations. Yet EFF found significant noncompliance, including the FBI violating its own internal oversight national security protocols, proving it repeatedly acts lawlessly. Ineffective oversight lets them get away with it.

Its NSL power abuses got much attention. Less covered, however, was "the unwillingness of companies and organizations to guard their clients’ and users’ sensitive, personal information" after receiving NSL requests, whether legally justified or not. If the Bureau acted lawfully, most would have been denied.

Violations of federal law governing criminal investigations and intelligence gathering activities were especially unique, flagrant, brazen and egregious, including willfully making false written statements to courts, supplying bogus information to get indictments of innocent people. Because of Bureau secrecy and coverup, it’s impossible to know the full extent of its lawlessness, how many people were harmed, and for what reasons.

Yet from what’s known, "the frequency and type of violations revealed….are staggering." Minimally, greater accountability and oversight are needed. While many hoped Obama would end Bush administration practices, they’ve continued unabated so far. Moreover, Congress refuses to act. As a result, FBI lawlessness persists, breaching constitutional freedoms.

Reprinted with permission from OpEd News.

Stephen Lendman [send him mail] lives in Chicago. Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening. Visit his blog.

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