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FBI ignored lawyers' warnings on phone records collection: WashPost

[JURIST] The FBI [official website] largely ignored growing concerns from its own lawyers and managers about the lawfulness of retrieving thousands of telephone records of US citizens between 2004 to 2006, the Washington Post reported Sunday. The allegations follow a sharply critical March 9 report [PDF] by US Department of Justice Inspector General Glenn Fine [official profile] on Patriot Act investigative practices which revealed that the FBI broke and misused laws [JURIST report] in the process of obtaining personal information from telephone companies, internet service providers, banks, credit bureaus and other business personal records. FBI lawyers are said to have expressed concerns as early as October 2004, although they only started taking a hard look at the record collection process in 2006.

Last week, top US Justice Department officials acknowledged fault and apologized for the illegal activities. FBI Director Robert Mueller said [press briefing transcript] that FBI agents had improperly used so-called "exigent letters," and that the FBI had suspended their use since May of last year and would only use them in the future "when the circumstances comport with the [Patriot Act]." Mueller also admitted that the FBI violated privacy protections in its use of national security letters (NSLs) [FAS backgrounder; example, PDF] with inaccurate record keeping, and also failed to detect potential Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) violations and submit them to IOB review. The Washington Post has more.

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