Monday, October 24, 2005

 

More Secret Police Activity at Home

On the home front, this report out of the Washington Post on FBI violations of what laws there are against certain forms of domestic spying. I doubt the U.S. has ever quit spying on it's own citizens; the problem is that now the government has massive powers to do so.

Secret warrants, secret trials, secret judges, secret detentions—all in the name of National Security. Even what guarantees that are left are violated. And the secret police as well as the not-so-secret police want more powers. "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."


washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/23/AR2005102301352_pf.html

FBI Papers Indicate Intelligence Violations
Secret Surveillance Lacked Oversight

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 24, 2005; A01

The FBI has conducted clandestine surveillance on some U.S. residents for as long as 18 months at a time without proper paperwork or oversight, according to previously classified documents to be released today.

Records turned over as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit also indicate that the FBI has investigated hundreds of potential violations related to its use of secret surveillance operations, which have been stepped up dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but are largely hidden from public view.

In one case, FBI agents kept an unidentified target under surveillance for at least five years -- including more than 15 months without notifying Justice Department lawyers after the subject had moved from New York to Detroit. An FBI investigation concluded that the delay was a violation of Justice guidelines and prevented the department "from exercising its responsibility for oversight and approval of an ongoing foreign counterintelligence investigation of a U.S. person."

In other cases, agents obtained e-mails after a warrant expired, seized bank records without proper authority and conducted an improper "unconsented physical search," according to the documents.

Although heavily censored, the documents provide a rare glimpse into the world of domestic spying, which is governed by a secret court and overseen by a presidential board that does not publicize its deliberations. The records are also emerging as the House and Senate battle over whether to put new restrictions on the controversial USA Patriot Act, which made it easier for the government to conduct secret searches and surveillance but has come under attack from civil liberties groups.

The records were provided to The Washington Post by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group that has sued the Justice Department for records relating to the Patriot Act.

***
Catherine Lotrionte, the presidential board's counsel, said most of its work is classified and covered by executive privilege. The board's investigations range from "technical violations to more substantive violations of statutes or executive orders," Lotrionte said.

Most such cases involve powers granted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which governs the use of secret warrants, wiretaps and other methods as part of investigations of agents of foreign powers or terrorist groups. The threshold for such surveillance is lower than for traditional criminal warrants. More than 1,700 new cases were opened by the court last year, according to an administration report to Congress.

In several of the cases outlined in the documents released to EPIC, FBI agents failed to file annual updates on ongoing surveillance, which are required by Justice Department guidelines and presidential directives, and which allow Justice lawyers to monitor the progress of a case. Others included a violation of bank privacy statutes and an improper physical search, though the details of the transgressions are edited out. At least two others involve e-mails that were improperly collected after the authority to do so had expired.

Some of the case details provide a rare peek into the world of FBI counterintelligence. In 2002, for example, the Pittsburgh field office opened a preliminary inquiry on a person to "determine his/her suitability as an asset for foreign counterintelligence matters" -- in other words, to become an informant. The violation occurred when the agent failed to extend the inquiry while maintaining contact with the potential asset, the documents show.

***
© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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