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March 09, 2007

MY EARLY WARNINGS about the Patriot Act seem to have borne at least some fruit, though I'll confess that things don't seem to have been as bad as I feared. Still, this is troubling:

The FBI improperly and, in some cases, illegally used the USA Patriot Act to secretly obtain personal information about people in the United States, a Justice Department audit concluded Friday.

And for three years the FBI has underreported to Congress how often it forced businesses to turn over the customer data, the audit found.

FBI agents sometimes demanded the data without proper authorization, according to the 126-page audit by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. At other times, the audit found, the FBI improperly obtained telephone records in non-emergency circumstances.

The audit blames agent error and shoddy record-keeping for the bulk of the problems and did not find any indication of criminal misconduct.

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

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: At the Counterterrorism Blog, this is called "troubling and inexcusable," but there's also this:

The problems identified by the IG are problems of process in terms of recordkeeping and reporting, which are administrative. The process in terms of operation and use of the information has not been problematic. The IG found no deliberate or intentional misuse of authority, meaning there were no infringements on privacy rights or civil liberties. Even though recordkeeping and reporting was inadequate, actual use of information was appropriate.

That's an important point.

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