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DOJ report shows FBI wiretap violations, internal probe into witness detentions

[JURIST] The Federal Bureau of Investigation [official website] has uncovered over 100 violations of wiretapping and intelligence gathering rules in the past two years, including using wiretaps that exceeded the scope authorized by court warrant and obtaining communications with an expired warrant, according to a report [text] released Wednesday by the US Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General [official website]. The disclosures came in Inspector General Glenn Fine's semi-annual review for Congress under Section 1001 of the Patriot Act of civil rights or civil liberties violations allegedly committed by DOJ employees. The OIG is also examining the FBI's use of National Security Letters [sample text, PDF; ACLU backgrounder], which allow the FBI to obtain records in terror investigations without a warrant, to determine whether the FBI has abused its subpoena powers. Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times has more.

Fine's report also disclosed that the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility [official website] is conducting an investigation into whether DOJ lawyers have abused a 1984 material witness law [18 USC 3144 text], which permits the government to arrest and detain witnesses before they can testify in a criminal trial if it is suspected they might flee. In a June 2005 report [text; JURIST report], Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union accused the Justice Department of abusing the law in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, detaining at least 70 people. According to Wednesday's OIG report, the Justice Department is looking into the detention of 13 individuals and another eight people detained as a group. AP has more.

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