Monday, November 07, 2005

FBI Abusing Powers

From the "No S**t, Sherlock" Department

Under the Patriot Act, the FBI issues more than 30,000 national security letters allowing the investigations each year, a hundredfold increase over historic norms, The Washington Post reported Sunday, quoting unnamed government sources.

The security letters, which were first used in the 1970s, allow access to people's phone and e-mail records, as well as financial data and the internet sites they surf. The 2001 Patriot Act removed the requirement that the records sought be those of someone under suspicion.

As a result, FBI agents can review the digital records of a citizen as long as the bureau can certify that the person's records are "relevant" to a terrorist investigation.

Define "relevant".
Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said Sunday he could not immediately confirm or dispute the 30,000 figure, but he said the power to use the security letters was justified.

"The Department of Justice inspector general in August 2005 found no civil rights violations with respect to the Patriot Act," he said.

Issued by the FBI without review by a judge, the letters are used to obtain electronic records from "electronic communications service providers." Such providers include internet service companies but also universities, public interest organizations and almost all libraries, because most provide access to the internet.

You're kidding me. A government-paid spokesman said that the use of power by a government organization was justified, and that this was even verified by a government-paid lawyer? Really?

The quote, from I don't remember where, comes to mind: "Who will watch the watchers?"