More FBI Privacy Violations Confirmed
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: March 6, 2008
Filed at 6:18 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI acknowledged it improperly accessed Americans' telephone records, credit reports and Internet traffic in 2006, the fourth straight year of privacy abuses resulting from investigations aimed at tracking terrorists and spies.
The breach occurred before the FBI enacted broad new reforms in March 2007 to prevent future lapses, FBI Director Robert Mueller said Wednesday. And it was caused, in part, by banks, telecommunication companies and other private businesses giving the FBI more personal client data than was requested.
Testifying at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Mueller raised the issue of the FBI's controversial use of so-called national security letters in reference to an upcoming report on the topic by the Justice Department's inspector general.
An audit by the inspector general last year found the FBI demanded personal records without official authorization or otherwise collected more data than allowed in dozens of cases between 2003 and 2005. Additionally, last year's audit found that the FBI had underreported to Congress how many national security letters were requested by more than 4,600.
The new audit, which examines use of national security letters issued in 2006, ''will identify issues similar to those in the report issued last March,'' Mueller told senators. The privacy abuse ''predates the reforms we now have in place,'' he said.
Speaking before the FBI chief, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., urged Mueller to be more vigilant in correcting what he called ''widespread illegal and improper use of national security letters.''
''Everybody wants to stop terrorists. But we also, though, as Americans, we believe in our privacy rights and we want those protected,'' Leahy said. ''There has to be a better chain of command for this. You cannot just have an FBI agent who decides he'd like to obtain Americans' records, bank records or anything else and do it just because they want to.''
Critics seized on Mueller's testimony as proof that a judge should sign off on the national security letters before they are issued.
''The credibility factor shows there needs to be outside oversight,'' said former FBI agent Michael German, now a national security adviser for the American Civil Liberties Union. He also cast doubt on the FBI's reforms.
''There were guidelines before, and there were laws before, and the FBI violated those laws,'' German said. ''And the idea that new guidelines would make a difference, I think cuts against rationality.''
[RLCC: "...caused, in part, by banks, telecommunication companies and other private businesses giving the FBI more personal client data than was requested." This is not good. People contract with banks and telecoms. Those banks and telecoms and others have privacy policies. Those policies state that they will hand over information when legally required. Legally is understood as meaning when due process of law has been followed. The National Security Letters do not follow due-process. Of course, we are talking here about mundane law, but we are also talking about how divine law must shed light into this mundane world. The FBI has done harm to many souls. It has misled. It has caused many to fall. At the same time, it is ostensibly fighting against those who would cause harm. Jesus sets the standard as high as it can be for dealing with spirits of temptation to fall. He uses no FBI to shield him. He appeals directly to each individual conscience and to all people of conscience together. He does not resort to any coercive means in seeking to protect himself from evil's intention to destroy goodness. Consequently, he does no harm. He makes none of the mistakes of the FBI, banks, telecoms, or others. He practices the Golden Rule as it ought to be practiced. He does unto others as they ought to want others to do unto them and to everyone. When everyone on this plane is finally doing that (has risen to it), all evil will disappear. That's the prophecy.]
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And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. (Matthew 17:24-26)