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DOJ internal watchdog opens domestic surveillance probe

[JURIST] US Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine [official website] has launched an internal investigation into the DOJ's use of intelligence gathered under the NSA's domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive], according to a letter from Fine to Congressional leaders obtained by AP Monday. Fine has notified leaders of the House and Senate judiciary, intelligence and appropriations committees that his office is investigating the Justice Department's "controls and use of information related to the program" as well as its "compliance with legal requirements governing the program." Under the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program [DOJ fact sheet, PDF], warrantless wiretaps are used to intercept telephone calls and e-mails of conversations of individuals suspected of being involved with the al Qaeda terrorist network if one of person is located outside the US.

After the program was first disclosed last year, inspectors general from both the DOJ and the Defense Department refused requests to investigate the program [JURIST report], with Fine citing a lack of jurisdiction. The DOJ request was referred to the department's Office of Professional Responsibility [official website], but the internal probe into the role DOJ lawyers played in designing the program was dropped [JURIST report] after the NSA denied investigators clearance to review all relevant documents. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales later said that President Bush personally put an end to the internal OPR investigation [JURIST report].

Fine's investigation will not cover the legality of the controversial program. In August, a federal judge ruled the program unconstitutional [JURIST report]; that decision is currently on appeal [JURIST report]. AP has more.

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