Report: FBI violated Patriot Act guidelines
Mike Sheehan
Published: Friday March 9, 2007
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The Federal Bureau of Investigation violated guidelines of the Patriot Act, reports ABC News' The Blotter.

"The FBI repeatedly failed to follow the strict guidelines of the Patriot Act when its agents took advantage of a new provision allowing the FBI to obtain phone and financial records without a court order, according to a report to be made public Friday by the Justice Department's Inspector General," write Brian Ross and Vic Walter.

Officials in Washington who've seen the report say "it documents 'numerous lapses' and describe it as 'scathing' and 'not a pretty picture for the FBI,'" Ross and Walter say.

The inspector general also found that the FBI "underreported by at least 20 percent" usage of a controversial provision in mandatory disclosures to Congress.

FBI agents, through the Patriot Act, have the power to demand personal and financial data by issuing--under the provision in question--an administrative letter which circumvents the need to seek a federal judge's warrant, the Blotter reports.

"Civil liberties groups have long opposed the provision," Ross and Walter continue, "saying the lack of oversight could lead to the kinds of problems apparently uncovered by the inspector general."

FBI Director Robert Mueller will brief Congress today on the report.

Excerpts from the Blotter article, available in full at this link, follow...

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In a report last year, the Justice Department said there were 9,254 NSL requests on 3,501 persons in the calendar year 2005. Some officials say the actual number is substantially higher.

The inspector general's report reportedly found "systemic" failures in the issuance, tracking and accountability of the controversial NSLs, although a Justice Department official said there was no finding of "willful or criminal misconduct."

FBI officials said they could not comment until the report was made public but said the FBI welcomed the findings because several of the reported problems were unknown to senior management.

"Expect a weekend firestorm," said one Justice Department official.

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