Sunday, December 11, 2005

Radical Militant Librarians Kick FBI Around?

"While radical militant librarians kick us around, true terrorists benefit from OIPR's failure to let us use the tools given to us," read the e-mail message, which was sent by an unidentified F.B.I. official. "This should be an OIPR priority!!!"

“Publicly, the debate over the law known as the USA Patriot Act has focused on concerns from civil rights advocates that the F.B.I. has gained too much power to use expanded investigative tools to go on what could amount to fishing expeditions.

But the newly disclosed e-mail messages offer a competing view, showing that, privately, some F.B.I. agents have felt hamstrung by their inability to get approval for using new powers under the Patriot Act, which was passed weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

One internal F.B.I. message, sent in October 2003, criticized the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review at the Justice Department, which reviews and approves terrorist warrants, as regularly blocking requests from the F.B.I. to use a section of the antiterrorism law that gave the bureau broader authority to demand records from institutions like banks, Internet providers and libraries.

"While radical militant librarians kick us around, true terrorists benefit from OIPR's failure to let us use the tools given to us," read the e-mail message, which was sent by an unidentified F.B.I. official. "This should be an OIPR priority!!!"

The bureau turned the e-mail messages over to the Electronic Privacy Information Center as part of a lawsuit brought by the group under the Freedom of Information Act, seeking material on the F.B.I.'s use of anti-terrorism powers. The group provided the material to The New York Times.


As part of the lawsuit brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a federal court has ordered the F.B.I. to turn over 1,500 pages of material to the privacy information group every two weeks.

An earlier collection of F.B.I. documents, released by the group in October, showed numerous violations of internal procedure and sometimes federal law by the bureau in its handling of surveillance and investigative matters. In some cases, for instance, agents had extended surveillance operations and investigations for months without getting required approval from supervisors.

In the most recent batch of material, an F.B.I. memorandum sent in March 2004 said the process for getting the Justice Department to improve demands for business records would be "greatly improved" because of a change in procedure allowing the bureau to "bypass" the department's intelligence office, which normally reviews all such requests.

But officials at the Justice Department and the F.B.I. said they were unaware of any such change in procedure and that all bureau requests for business record were still reviewed and approved by the Justice Department.

A separate e-mail message, sent in May 2004 with the subject header "Miracles," mockingly celebrated the fact that the Justice Department had approved an F.B.I. request for records under the so-called library provision.

"We got our first business record order signed today!" the message said. "It only took two and a half years."

In its latest public accounting of its use of the library provision, which falls under Section 215 of the antiterrorism law, the Justice Department said in April that it had used the law 35 times since late 2003 to gain access to information on apartment leasing, driver's licenses, financial records and other data in intelligence investigations. ”

Here's a theory…

The FBI isn't being denied access to what they want because of bureaucratic timidity, but because as our unofficial secret police they've got a demonstrable tendency to demonize political dissenters while ignoring evidence of actual crimes.

I'll bet the loudest complainanta are the very people who saw no significance in a bunch of Saudi's, Egyptians, and Morrocans in flight schools, who disciplined the whistleblowers who pointed out lax security and conflict of interest in the FBI's analysis division. The people who think they know who the dangerous people are, the evidence be “damned.”

So here's a few kudos to the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, for not “embarrassing” the bureau and applying restraint to a law that goes too far.


http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/11/national/nationalspecial3/11patriot.html
con·cept: Radical Militant Librarians Kick FBI Around?