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FBI involved in hundreds of legal violations over past decade: report

The FBI [official website] reported to a presidential oversight board that between 2001 and 2008 it committed approximately 800 violations of laws, executive orders, or other regulations governing intelligence investigations, according to a report released Monday by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) [advocacy website]. The report [text] summarizes nearly 2,500 pages of government documents obtained by EFF through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] litigation. Many of the documents are reports made to the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) [official website], an independent agency within the office of the president that oversees the Intelligence Community's compliance with the Constitution and all applicable laws, executive orders, and presidential directives. The report states, "[t]he documents suggest that FBI intelligence investigations have compromised the civil liberties of American citizens far more frequently, and to a greater extent, than was previously assumed." According to the documents, the reported violations to the IOB included violations of intelligence procedures governing investigations and abuses of the FBI's National Security Letter authority, and nearly a fifth were violations of the Constitution, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text], or other laws governing criminal investigations. The FBI said the violations were due to technical mistakes [LAT report] and the amount of substantive violations is small.

This is not the first time the FBI has faced allegations of illegal activity in the course of its investigations. Last September, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) [official website] released a report [JURIST report] absolving the FBI of charges that agents conducted investigations of domestic groups based on their exercise of First Amendment [text] rights. But the report criticized the FBI for beginning investigations on weak factual predicates, continuing investigations longer than necessary, inappropriately retaining information on file, misclassifying investigations, and probing issues of state, rather than federal, law. Also in 2007, the FBI ignored growing concerns [JURIST report] from its own lawyers and managers about the lawfulness of retrieving thousands of telephone records of US citizens between 2004 to 2006. The DOJ report by Inspector General Glenn Fine [official profile] on Patriot Act investigative practices 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.

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