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Thursday, December 20, 2007

The FBI, Arguing With Itself

It's somewhat heartening to know that there were pretty heated discussions going on between FBI types over whether a court order was needed here...but then again, it's deeply troubling that this needs an argument. Check out the original story here, complete with PDF links to the original FBI e-mails.

By now it's well known that FBI agents can't always be troubled to get a court order before going after a surveillance target's telephone and internet records. But newly released FBI documents show that aggressive surveillance tactics have even caused friction within the bureau.

"We deal mostly with the fugitive squad here, and, like in many other offices, these guys have a reputation for cutting corners," a surveillance specialist at the FBI's Minneapolis field office complained in an internal e-mail last year. "I'm not bashing them; it's the way they do business. Getting a court order is the absolute last step, if they have to.

"Before I had a blowup with a particular agent ... we were constantly asked to call our contacts at service providers to see if we could get various information without having to get a court order," the message continues. "This gets old, believe me. ... Doing this once or twice to help out turns into SOP (standard operating procedure) ... It's expected, and you're criticized as a tech agent if you refuse to do this later on."

The revelation is the second this year showing that FBI employees bypassed court order requirements for phone records. In July, the FBI and the Justice Department Inspector General revealed the existence of a joint investigation into an FBI counter-terrorism office, after an audit found that the Communications Analysis Unit sent more than 700 fake emergency letters to phone companies seeking call records. An Inspector General spokeswoman declined to provide the status of that investigation, citing agency policy...

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