Tuesday, March 20, 2007

FBI's National Security Letters Under Fire

We are watching the other shoe drop now following DoJ's OIG report documenting numerous problems, though no criminal malfeasence, in the FBI's administration of their NSL authority. For background on this issue, please see here and here.

Hearings have begun in the House Committee on the Judiciary as to what actions to take. The FBI's General Counsel Valerie Caproni gave testimony today, and a copy of her prepared statement outlining the FBI's response to the problem is here.

Not surprisingly, there are calls from the Democratic side of the Committee to simply take away NSL authority from the FBI as a part of reducing the scope of the Patriot Act - long a favored cause of the far left. As reported by Fox:

"This was a serious breach of trust," said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the Judiciary chairman. "The department had converted this tool into a handy shortcut to illegally gather vast amounts of private information while at the same time significantly underreporting its activities to Congress."

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said Congress should revise the USA Patriot Act, which substantially loosened controls over the letters.

"We do not trust government always to be run by angels, especially not this administration," Nadler said. "It is not enough to mandate that the FBI fix internal management problems and recordkeeping, because the statute itself authorizes the unchecked collection of information on innocent Americans."

Hopefully, Republican's will be able to run enough interference to buy the FBI the time it needs to fix the administrative and bureaucratic problems that were highlighted in the OIG report. And the FBI does need to solve the NSL administrative problems immediately. That said, the NSL's have been an invaluable tool to fight against terrorism, but an easy target for the left wing because, without a full understanding of the limited information that can be sought under the NSL's, it has been easy for the left to effectively label the NSL's as a vast and near inherent breach of Americans' privacy. Watch for this to become a major partisan political battle splashed across the papers in the coming days as the Democrats seek to cut off the FBI's NSL authority for partisan political gain.

Type rest of the post here

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