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Gonzales, Mueller Admit FBI Broke Law [Update-Mueller disputes Gonzales testimony]

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Gonzales, Mueller Admit FBI Broke Law [Update-Mueller disputes Gonzales testimony]

Old 03-10-07, 08:48 AM
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Gonzales, Mueller Admit FBI Broke Law [3/16 Update-General Gonzales scandal issues]

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070310/...curity_letters

LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer


The nation's top two law enforcement officials acknowledged Friday the FBI broke the law to secretly pry out personal information about Americans. They apologized and vowed to prevent further illegal intrusions.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales left open the possibility of pursuing criminal charges against FBI agents or lawyers who improperly used the USA Patriot Act in pursuit of suspected terrorists and spies.

The FBI's transgressions were spelled out in a damning 126-page audit by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. He found that agents sometimes demanded personal data on people without official authorization, and in other cases improperly obtained telephone records in non-emergency circumstances.

The audit also concluded that the FBI for three years underreported to Congress how often it used national security letters to ask businesses to turn over customer data. The letters are administrative subpoenas that do not require a judge's approval.

"People have to believe in what we say," Gonzales said. "And so I think this was very upsetting to me. And it's frustrating."

"We have some work to do to reassure members of Congress and the American people that we are serious about being responsible in the exercise of these authorities," he said.

Under the Patriot Act, the national security letters give the FBI authority to demand that telephone companies, Internet service providers, banks, credit bureaus and other businesses produce personal records about their customers or subscribers. About three-fourths of the letters issued between 2003 and 2005 involved counterterror cases, with the rest for espionage investigations, the audit reported.

Shoddy record-keeping and human error were to blame for the bulk of the problems, said Justice auditors, who were careful to note they found no indication of criminal misconduct.

Still, "we believe the improper or illegal uses we found involve serious misuses of national security letter authorities," the audit concluded.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller said many of the problems were being fixed, including by building a better internal data collection system and training employees on the limits of their authority. The FBI has also scrapped the use of "exigent letters," which were used to gather information without the signed permission of an authorized official.

"But the question should and must be asked: How could this happen? Who is accountable?" Mueller said. "And the answer to that is, I am to be held accountable."

Mueller said he had not been asked to resign, nor had he discussed doing so with other officials. He said employees would probably face disciplinary actions, not criminal charges, following an internal investigation of how the violations occurred.

The audit incensed lawmakers in Congress already seething over the recent dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys. Democrats who lead House and Senate judiciary and intelligence oversight panels promised hearings on the findings. Several lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats alike — raised the possibility of scaling back the FBI's authority.

"It's up to Congress to end these abuses as soon as possible," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The Patriot Act was never intended to allow the Bush administration to violate fundamental constitutional rights."

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the audit shows "a major failure by Justice to uphold the law."

"If the Justice Department is going to enforce the law, it must follow it as well," said Hoekstra, of Michigan.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the audit proves Congress must amend the Patriot Act to require judicial approval anytime the FBI wants access to sensitive personal information.

"The attorney general and the FBI are part of the problem, and they cannot be trusted to be part of the solution," said ACLU's executive director, Anthony D. Romero.

Both Gonzales and Mueller called the national security letters vital tools in pursuing terrorists and spies in the United States. "They are the bread and butter of our investigations," Mueller said.

Gonzales asked the inspector general to issue a follow-up audit in July on whether the FBI had followed recommendations to fix the problems.

Fine's annual review is required by Congress, over the objections of the Bush administration. It concluded that the number of national security letters requested by the FBI skyrocketed in the years after the Patriot Act became law. Each letter issued may contain several requests.

In 2000, for example, the FBI issued an estimated 8,500 requests. That number peaked in 2004 with 56,000. Overall, the FBI reported issuing 143,074 requests in national security letters between 2003 and 2005.

But that did not include an additional 8,850 requests that were never recorded in the FBI's database, the audit found. A sample review of 77 case files at four FBI field offices showed that agents had underreported the number of national security letter requests by about 22 percent.

Additionally, the audit found, the FBI identified 26 possible violations in its use of the letters, including failing to get proper authorization, making improper requests under the law and unauthorized collection of telephone or Internet e-mail records.

The FBI also used exigent letters to quickly get information — sometimes in non-emergency situations — without going through proper channels. In at least 700 cases, these letters were sent to three telephone companies to get billing records and subscriber information, the audit found.
___________

1. Is it time to amend the Patriot Act?

2. Shouldn't Mueller resign?

3. Is it right for FBI folks to violate the law and simply be reprimanded, while us plain folks would be prosecuted and go to jail?

Last edited by classicman2; 03-10-07 at 08:52 AM.
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Old 03-10-07, 10:45 AM
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Wait a minute - you're telling me power granted to the government is frequently abused? But we were told that proper safeguards were in place, and that these powers would be used only to keep us safe!

Who could have possibly seen this coming?
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Old 03-10-07, 10:58 AM
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Under the Patriot Act, the national security letters give the FBI authority to demand that telephone companies, Internet service providers, banks, credit bureaus and other businesses produce personal records about their customers or subscribers. About three-fourths of the letters issued between 2003 and 2005 involved counterterror cases, with the rest for espionage investigations, the audit reported.
So... just so I get this straight.. we should be outraged that the FBI is spying on people for the purpose of counter terrorism and espionage? I thought that is what the FBI was for.

Both Gonzales and Mueller called the national security letters vital tools in pursuing terrorists and spies in the United States. "They are the bread and butter of our investigations," Mueller said.
Could someone upset by this please explain how the FBI is supposed to protect the country without the power to do so? Or do we just sit back happy that we aren't being "spied on" and then act shocked again that we weren't prepared for the next attack.
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Old 03-10-07, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by General Zod
So... just so I get this straight.. we should be outraged that the FBI is spying on people for the purpose of counter terrorism and espionage? I thought that is what the FBI was for.

Could someone upset by this please explain how the FBI is supposed to protect the country without the power to do so? Or do we just sit back happy that we aren't being "spied on" and then act shocked again that we weren't prepared for the next attack.
Because the power was granted with certain safeguards in place, which Bush signed into law (his absurd signing statements notwithstanding). The FBI ignored those safeguards, thereby violating the law, in thousands of instances. That is okay by you?
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Old 03-10-07, 11:15 AM
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You do have to be impressed with the system when the same department responsible for the abuses uncovers it and reports it to the public.
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Old 03-10-07, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by X
You do have to be impressed with the system when the same department responsible for the abuses uncovers it and reports it to the public.
I should be impressed that the report from the DoJ's Inspector General, produced under orders from Congress over the objections of the Justice Department itself, revealed violations of the law by the government? Are you kidding?

From the Washington Post
The 199-page report, which Congress ordered the inspector general's office to produce over the Justice Department's objections, does not accuse the FBI of deliberate lawbreaking. But it depicts the bureau's 56 field offices and headquarters as paying little heed to the rules, and misunderstanding them, as they used the USA Patriot Act and three other laws to request the telephone records, e-mail addresses, and employment and credit histories of people deemed relevant to terrorism or espionage investigations.
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Old 03-10-07, 11:56 AM
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So Congress mandated the Inspector General. Just as it mandated the Patriot Act.

Gotta be impressed with that system too. When exactly did this investigation get mandated?
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Old 03-10-07, 12:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Duran
Because the power was granted with certain safeguards in place, which Bush signed into law (his absurd signing statements notwithstanding). The FBI ignored those safeguards, thereby violating the law, in thousands of instances. That is okay by you?
Beats me. Not enough info. Did they take "shortcuts" where they had adequate basis to get permission if they followed procedure, or were these basis-less where no way in hell would they have gotten approval?

Shortcuts are wrong and they should be reprimanded, but BFD. If the cases were utterly without basis, I am more concerned. God forbid that journalists give us any REALLY important info about the matter. Lets just drum hysteria and see where it leads.
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Old 03-10-07, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by OldDude
Beats me. Not enough info. Did they take "shortcuts" where they had adequate basis to get permission if they followed procedure, or were these basis-less where no way in hell would they have gotten approval?
That's the point. We don't know because they didn't follow procedure. If they had followed procedure (and the law), it wouldn't be a question. THey also abused the provisions allowing bypass of the regular procedures in case of emergency ("exigent letters").

Originally Posted by X
So Congress mandated the Inspector General. Just as it mandated the Patriot Act.

Gotta be impressed with that system too. When exactly did this investigation get mandated?
No, I don't. Accurate reporting was mandated by Congress in the Patriot Act itself, and was ignored. Congress demands an investigation by the DoJ Inspector General, and according to the article I posted, the DoJ objects. I fail to understand why I should be impressed that eventually, after failing to report accurately originally, as required by law, it comes out that the FBI violated the law in thousands of cases. After years of violations, someone finally obeys the law, and I should be impressed? You have set the bar rather low.
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Old 03-10-07, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by X
You do have to be impressed with the system when the same department responsible for the abuses uncovers it and reports it to the public.
Impressed? I'd be impressed if this happened BEFORE the crumbling of an Administration and BEFORE the administration lost its power due to overwheleming response by American voters.

As a few of us on this forum have commented many years ago. Stories like this will be common only after the fact. This is typical "CYA" procedure because the information was about to be leaked by another source anyway. The Bush Administration simply has too many leaking holes in its War On Terror, and everyone is scrambling to save themselves and their political careers, if any.

More stories of abuse of power will come to the forefront. It is unfortunate the damage has already been done.
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Old 03-11-07, 12:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Duran
Who could have possibly seen this coming?
Let me tell you something. If the US Government decides to stick a tracking device up your ass, you say "Thank you!" ...And "God bless America!"




But seriously, I think most people expected this to happen, unfortunately, most don't care.
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Old 03-11-07, 07:56 AM
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Has there been any administration, in your lifetime, that has violated the civil liberties of individuals more than the current administration?
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Old 03-11-07, 11:16 AM
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Nope. You'd have to add "leaders" from other countries in order for me to say yes to that question.
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Old 03-11-07, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
Has there been any administration, in your lifetime, that has violated the civil liberties of individuals more than the current administration?
So far I've heard no report about damages to anybody's civil liberties from these actions. I'm going to have to wait to get some real information before I condemn anyone.

I'd say the Clinton Administration having close to 1000 FBI files on individuals ranks way up there. And the person most responsible for that is running for president. Haven't heard anybody mention that lately.
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Old 03-11-07, 03:08 PM
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Originally Posted by X
So far I've heard no report about damages to anybody's civil liberties from these actions. I'm going to have to wait to get some real information before I condemn anyone.
Try post #1 of this very thread. When the FBI is secretly spying on you with no oversight, that's a violation of your civil liberties.
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Old 03-11-07, 03:33 PM
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When the Patriot Act was passed, I said that it would lead to abuses. I said that, for example, the FBI put Martin Luther King under surveilence.

Other posters told me that MLK was a long time ago, and thing are different now.

I gloat.
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Old 03-11-07, 03:37 PM
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Originally Posted by X
So Congress mandated the Inspector General. Just as it mandated the Patriot Act.

Gotta be impressed with that system too. When exactly did this investigation get mandated?
We live in a country with a democratically elected government and a free press. Nobody would have known if, say, the NKVD had exceeded their powers. Life is good.
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Old 03-11-07, 07:35 PM
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Originally Posted by JasonF
Try post #1 of this very thread. When the FBI is secretly spying on you with no oversight, that's a violation of your civil liberties.
Evidently some people don't think it's such a big deal for their fellow citizens to have their rights violated.
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Old 03-11-07, 07:52 PM
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So Hillary is the one who amassed the FBI raw files in the White House.

I wasn't aware of that.

I don't believe the Special Prosecutor was aware of that.
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Old 03-12-07, 09:45 AM
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The 3rd ranking Democrat in the Senate leadership, Charles Schumer, has called for resignation of AG Gonzales. He says Gonzales is the most political AG in history. I would argue we've had, in the recent past, AGs just as political as Gonzales.

My problem with Gonzales is that he doesn't seem to believe that the Congress should have oversight over departments and agencies of the Executive.
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Old 03-12-07, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
The 3rd ranking Democrat in the Senate leadership, Charles Schumer, has called for resignation of AG Gonzales. He says Gonzales is the most political AG in history. I would argue we've had, in the recent past, AGs just as political as Gonzales.
When an AG steps down to run the president's re-election campaign, that's a political AG.
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Old 03-12-07, 09:54 AM
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It makes one wonder what kind of a federal judge Gonzales would have made.

My opinion on that has probably changed since he has been AG.

Although I suppose you could make a good judge and seem to not be as concerned with civil liberties as I believe one should as the Attorney General.
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Old 03-12-07, 04:28 PM
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Sen. Joe Biden has joined the growing chorus in calling for Gonzales' resignation.
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Old 03-12-07, 06:41 PM
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Man, you guys must go crazy watching "24".
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Old 03-13-07, 06:32 AM
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Originally Posted by JasonF
Try post #1 of this very thread. When the FBI is secretly spying on you with no oversight, that's a violation of your civil liberties.
Apparently it's only a violation if you prove yourself completely innocent first. We don't need that stupid "due process of law" crap, anyway.
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