Friday, March 14, 2008

National security letters

Here something that will make sleep better at night. The investigation of the FBI’s use of national security letters not to gather information on terrorists but ordinary Americans.

In total ... the FBI issued almost 200,000 national security letters from 2003 through 2006, and they were used in a third of all FBI national security and computer probes during that time. Fine said his investigators have identified hundreds of possible violations of laws or internal guidelines in the use of the letters, including cases in which FBI agents made improper requests, collected more data than they were allowed to, or did not have proper authorization to proceed with the case.

FBI Assistant Director John Miller said a new automated system will keep better tabs on the letters, and they are now reviewed by a lawyer before they are sent to a telephone company, Internet service provider or other target. “We are committed to using them in ways that maximize their national security value while providing the highest level of privacy and protection of the civil liberties of those we are sworn to protect,” Miller said.

And this is going to reassure us how exactly. The FBI used many of these letters to go around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The court rejected two claims by the FBI. So the FBI used the letters to get the records anyway. The justification was based on “the FBI’s general counsel, Valerie E. Caproni, told investigators it was appropriate to issue the letters in such cases because she disagreed with the court’s conclusions.” What exactly is to prevent the FBI from using this justification again.

The question might be asked why be concerned. There are a couple of answer. The first and most obvious is people’s rights are being trampled all over. Of course this has never stopped the Bush administration before.

Here's another reason. 50,000 letters were issued in 2006 alone. Who exactly is going through all this information? Is the sheer volume overwhelming the ability to properly analyze, sort the data and find information that actually relates to the security of this country? You need some real supervision of the letters so they end up being used to go after terrorist. You need some real supervision so the letters are used to go after ordinary people who are not in any way shape or form associated with terrorists.

Congress needs to hold the FBI's feet to the fire to make only the bad guys are gone after.

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