Friday, March 09, 2007

Did Bush order the FBI to break the law?

It's hardly shocking to learn that even under the wide latititude given them under the Patriot Act, the FBI is violating the law in issuing National Security Letters to secretly obtain private information on innocent Americans. Their legal obligations are not at all onerous yet the FBI has failed to meet their very low threshold for compliance.
[The investigator] Fine found that FBI agents used national security letters without citing an authorized investigation, claimed "exigent" circumstances that did not exist in demanding information and did not have adequate documentation to justify the issuance of letters.
Fine claims the violations are not deliberate but that ignores an important point that Glenn Greenwald notes in his post. When the Patriot Act was reauthorized -- against my strenuous objections which only nine senators including Russ Feingold supported -- Bush issued one of his infamous signing statements announcing that he had no obligation to honor the oversight safeguards which formed the basis of the Senate's approval of the bill. As I recall there was a much debate and when the legislation passed the Senate assured us with great fanfare that they passed it specifically because these safeguards were going to "protect" Americans' privacy. So much for that.

The FBI has issued on the order of 47,000 of these NSLs. The auditor's review of only 293 of them found "22 possible breaches of internal FBI and Justice Department regulations -- some of which were potential violations of law --" and "the FBI identified 26 potential violations in other cases." Do the math for yourself folks. How many breaches would that be if the review were extended to all 47,000? Glenn sums up the greater implications.
The story here is not merely that the FBI is breaking the law and abusing these powers. That has long been predicted and, to some degree, even documented. The story is that the FBI is ignoring the very legal obligations which George Bush vowed were not obligations at all, but mere suggestions to be accepted only if he willed it. It is yet another vivid example proving that the President's ideology of lawlessness exists not merely in theory, but as the governing doctrine under which the executive branch has acted, time and again and as deliberately as possible, in violation of whatever laws it deems inconvenient.
One has to wonder just what are they doing with these databases of improperly obtained information? Somehow, I feel certain they're not deleting any of it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still, how can you accidentally make illegaly violations on the American citizens by asking for personal information that the FBI didn’t even need in the first place?

5:58:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Good question Rashad. I'd like the answer to that myself.

6:15:00 PM  

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