"Trust Us" Doesn’t Cut It Any More

by Sen. RUSSELL FEINGOLD

Last week the Senate’s Judiciary Committee had the opportunity to hear from the Justice Department’s Inspector General about ­ as he put it ­ "the widespread and serious misuse of the FBI’s national security letter authorities." Today we need to hear straight from the FBI Director how and why this abuse occurred, and why it was not caught earlier.

Had it not been for this independent audit, conducted carefully and thoughtfully by the Inspector General’s Office, Congress and the American public might never have known how the National Security Letter, or NSL, authorities were being abused by the FBI. The NSL authorities operate in secret. The Justice Department’s classified reporting on the use of NSLs was admittedly inaccurate. And when, during the reauthorization process, Congress asked questions about how these authorities were being used, we got empty assurances and platitudes that have turned out to be mistaken as well.

Unfortunately, I believe that the FBI’s apparently lax attitude and in some cases grave misuse of these potentially very intrusive authorities is attributable in no small part to the USA Patriot Act. That flawed legislation dramatically expanded the NSL authorities, essentially granting the FBI a blank check to obtain some very sensitive records about Americans, including people not under any suspicion of wrong-doing, without judicial approval. Congress gave the FBI very few rules to follow, and accordingly shares some responsibility for the FBI’s troubling implementation of these broad authorities.

This Inspector General report proves that "trust us" doesn’t cut it when it comes to the government’s power to obtain Americans’ sensitive business records without a court order and without any suspicion that they are tied to terrorism or espionage. It was a grave mistake for Congress to grant the government broad authorities and just keep its fingers crossed that they wouldn’t be misused. We have the obligation, the responsibility, to put appropriate limits on government authorities ­ limits that allow agents to actively pursue criminals and terrorists, but that also protect the privacy of innocent Americans.

Congress needs to exercise extensive and searching oversight of those powers, and it must take corrective action. The Inspector General report has shown both that current safeguards are inadequate and that the government cannot be trusted to exercise those powers lawfully.

 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Ellen Taylor
The Voyage of the Golden Rule
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Franklin Lamb
Return to Ma’loula, Syria
Masturah Alatas
Six Critics in Search of an Author
Mark Hand
Cinéma Engagé: Filmmaker Chronicles Texas Fracking Wars
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Patrick Hiller
The Icebreaker and #ShellNo: How Activists Determine the Course
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender: Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”