Continuing their excellent work, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), through diligent research has obtained FBI documents, via FOIA request, that document abuses of the portions of the Patriot Act that are set to sunset after their temporary extension.
In yesterday’s (March 30, 2011) Senate Judiciary Hearing, “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” FBI Director Robert Mueller testified about the Bureau’s desire to extend three expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act — PATRIOT Section 215, authorizing secret court orders for the Internet and financial records of innocent Americans; the “lone wolf” wiretapping provision, which unconstitutionally allows foreign intelligence investigators to bypass traditional wiretapping protections and spy on people inside the U.S. who have no link to any foreign organization; and the “John Doe” roving wiretap provision, which allows blank-check wiretapping orders that don’t identify the suspect or the particular phone or Internet connections to be tapped.
During the question and answer portion of Mueller’s testimony, Senator Grassley asked the FBI Director: have “any of these three provisions been subject to any negative reports of finding abuse?” Mueller responded, “I’m not aware of any.” Well, Director Mueller — EFF is aware of some.
As part of EFF’s FLAG Project, we issued a FOIA request for records of intelligence violations stemming from the FBI’s use of the expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act. In the FBI’s response to our request, we uncovered evidence of multiple reports of potential violations (pdf); however, intypical FBI fashion, the reports are almost entirely redacted. As a result, the details of most of the violations remain secret. Nevertheless, by comparing the FBI’s response to our PATRIOT Act request with the Bureau’s response to another EFF FOIA request, the murky details of at least one potential violation involving PATRIOT provisions became more clear: the FBI, in a case where use of a “John Doe” roving wiretap was authorized, monitored the conversations of “young children” for “approximately” five days.
Besides the fact the FBI abused the questionable portions of the Patriot Act, and were less than forthcoming in admiting through extenstive redacting, one has to also wonder: is FBI Director Robert Mueller ignorant, stupid or lying? Was he really “not aware of any”? Or perhaps he didn’t WANT to be aware of any, utilizing the old political fall back of plausable denialability. Either way, not good.
Also, though not covered by the FOIA documents in this article, another additional question is raised on the “John Doe” roving wiretaps: if the Government can get a wiretap that allows the Government to record any/every call by a person, regardless of the phone they make the call on, doesn’t that mean that for the Government to have that ability, THEY ALREADY HAVE ALL PHONES CALL MONITORED/TAPPED?
So the FBI abuses the Patriot Act? Guess there is only one thing to say: