The San-Francisco watchdog-group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, released a report today saying it has discovered “indications that the FBI may have committed upwards of 40,000 possible intelligence violations in the 9 years since 9/11.”
The documents suggests, “that FBI intelligence investigations have compromised the civil liberties of American citizens far more frequently, and to a greater extent, than was previously assumed.” The report said that there was no indication whether anyone was disciplined for the violations.
The documents were provided by various agencies to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board, and reported nearly 800 violations of privacy laws. The EFF took the data from records it obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
The records were received from a number of agencies, but most were censored, making it difficult to evaluate them. The FB records were most intact, although names, exact dates and other identifying information had been obscured.
The report said that on average, a delay of 2 ½ years passed between the occurrence of a violation, and its reporting to the IOB.
Valerie Caproni, the FBI’s general counsel, told the Los Angeles Times, the violations were mostly technical or procedural, although many involved far more serious infractions, including “lying in declarations to the court, using improper evidence to obtain grand jury subpoenas, and accessing password-protected files without a warrant.”
Caproni offered that “the number of substantive violations someone’s rights is very small and we take them very seriously.” She added “Am I confident that, by and large, 99.9 percent of the time our agents are acting in compliance with the Constitution, the statutes, executive orders and FBI and DOJ policies on civil liberties? I am.”
Mark Rumold, the EFF lawyer who obtained the documents said “These guidelines were put in place to prevent civil rights abuses. And when the FBI is glibly treating violations as technical mistakes, it’s indicative of a broader problem — the FBI’s attitude toward dedicated, effective oversight.”
Most of the violations took place during the George W. Bush administration, the period covered by the investigation.
However, Rumold also took aim at the Obama administration. He said the president declared repeatedly that he would run a more transparent White House, “but when it comes to national security and intelligence investigations, that just hasn’t been the case.” The Obama administration has refused to say whether anyone is currently serving on the oversight board, which was formed in 1976 to monitor the collection intelligence data.
Access the EFF report here