Category Archives: FBI

Inspector General Confirms Probe of Rogue FBI Anti-Terror Office

Nothing in the MSM about this, but Wired has it:

The Justice Department’s Inspector General and the FBI are investigating an office that sent fake, emergency letters to telecoms requesting phone records, according to the Inspector General’s office. That office lacked the authority to request the records and did not apply for the subpoenas promised in the letters.

That information largely confirms a a Wired News story from last week, which revealed that top FBI officials told privacy groups that a criminal investigation of the office was underway and that individuals had been granted immunity.

If the investigation looks into possible criminal violations of fraud statutes or a violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, it would mark the first known investigation of government employees for violations of the Patriot Act.

Cynthia Schnedar, the Counsel to the Inspector General, confirmed Thursday that a joint investigation was being conducted by the Inspector General and the FBI. She declined to specify if the investigation was criminal or administrative, saying the office’s policy is not to characterize investigations.

As to whether individuals in the Communications Analysis Unit had been granted immunity, Schnedar also declined to comment, saying “I can’t talk about ongoing investigations.”

The Communications Analysis Unit, a part of the FBI’s counter-terrorism branch that is tasked with helping agents make sense of electronic communications records, sent more than 700 so-called “exigent letters” to telecoms requesting phone records of more than 3000 phone numbers.

According to the current head of the unit, the office has no authority (.pdf) to send the letters themselves, included false promises in the letters that subpoenas had already been applied for, and did not follow-up to make sure that proper legal documents were later sent. Three phone companies, including AT&T and Verizon, were under contract with the FBI to process emergency requests and did not balk at repeated requests, even after previous requests were not followed up with subpoenas or National Security Letters.

The fake emergency letters came to light in March in an Inspector General report which found that FBI agents misused and under-reported a key Patriot Act power known as a National Security Letter. So called NSLs allow terror investigators to subpoena financial, phone and internet records, without seeing a judge, by certifying the targets are relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation. The letters typically come with a gag order that prevents the recipient from ever speaking of the subpoena. Though warned in 2001 to use the power sparingly, FBI agents used the power to collect information on 143,074 persons from 2003 to 2005.

Have I told you lately how I have come to think that the FBI stands for Fucking Bureaucratic Idiots?

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