June 14, 2007 | By Derek Slater

FBI's Abuse of PATRIOT Act Even Worse Than We Thought

According to the Washington Post, "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."

That report [PDF] painted a horror story, including massive abuses of so-called National Security Letters (NSLs). Before PATRIOT, the FBI could only use NSLs to obtain the records of suspected terrorists or spies. But under PATRIOT the FBI can use them to get private records about anybody without any court approval, as long as it believes the information could be relevant to an authorized terrorism or espionage investigation.

According to the previous report by the Justice Department's Inspector General, the FBI's misuse of its authority included issuing NSLs to spy on people who weren't the subject of any existing investigation whatsoever. Now, the newer internal audit reveals that the abuse was even broader than previously known -- in fact, so far "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."

From the moment PATRIOT was passed, we said the NSL power unconstitutional and ripe for abuse, and these new revelations make it clearer than ever that Congress should repeal PATRIOT's expansion of NSL powers and reform the PATRIOT Act as a whole. Take action now and tell Congress to stop the abuse of surveillance powers.


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