FBI illegally collected phone records by claiming terrorism emergencies: report

[JURIST] The FBI illegally collected more than 2,000 telephone records between 2002 and 2006 by claiming the phone calls being made related to possible terrorism emergencies, according to a Washington Post report [text] Tuesday. According to the article, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) [official website] will soon release a report that is expected to build on an OIG report issued in 2007, which showed the FBI had improperly obtained phone records. The FBI released a statement [text] responding to the article saying the practice was discontinued in 2006, and:


the Bureau did not have in place adequate internal controls to ensure that the appropriate process was used and that appropriate records were kept to document the basis of any request to the phone companies that did not require legal process. Steps were taken as early as 2006 to ensure similar situations do not occur in the future.

The FBI began the practice of allowing supervisors to authorize collection of phone records on the basis of emergency situations shortly after the Patriot Act [JURIST news archive] was passed in October 2001. The collection of telephone records on the basis of non-existent emergencies is a violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) [text].

The discussion surrounding the expansion of government powers following enactment of the Patriot Act has been ongoing. The US Senate Judiciary Committee voted to reauthorize three of the Patriot Act in October, which was supported [JURIST reports] by the DOJ. In July, former DOJ Office of Legal Counsel lawyer John Yoo [JURIST news archive] defended [JURIST report] the Bush administration's use of warrantless wiretapping [JURIST news archive] following the release [JURIST report] of a a multi-agency report questioning its effectiveness.

1/20/10 - The OIG report [text, PDF] has been released to the public.

 

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