Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Another Patriot Act Abuse

The FBI has been abusing its powers under the PATRIOT Act to obtain highly personal information on American citizens. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says he is going to get to the bottom of it and “make things right as quickly as possible”. FBI Director Robert Meuller blames himself for not putting more safeguards in place.

Why do their responses resemble the protestations of a fox caught inside a chicken coop? There are feathers sticking to their mouths.

The National Security Letters used by the FBI to make its information grab, were created in the 1970s as a narrow exception in consumer privacy law, allowing the FBI ­ without a court order– to look in secret at the communications, and financial and credit records of foreign agents. Widening the application of National Security Letters with s. 505 of the PATRIOT Act, the Bush Administration let the FBI loose to seize the records of American citizens without warrant, in the same way it would later let the National Security Agency loose to spy on their phone and email records.

According to the Washington Post, the FBI has issued more that 30,000 National Security Letters each year in the recent past, compared to approximately the 3,000 a year it used to issue. And it’s no wonder the FBI’s use of National Security Letters has been burgeoning. In guidelines issued to the agency on May 30, 2002 and October 31, 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft gave “overriding priority to preventing attacks by any means possible”. In late 2003 Ashcroft rescinded the guideline that required the FBI to destroy all information obtained about American citizens or residents when it was not relevant to the purposes for which it had been collected or when an investigation was closed. He replaced it with a guideline that required the FBI to retain all the records it collected and to develop data mining technology to find links between people, places and events in its growing cache of records. Heeding the guidelines, the FBI set up a new system called “Investigative Data Warehouse” based on the Oracle technology used by the CIA. This kind of retention and data mining of records allows the personal information of Americans to be scrutinized again and again as new records are added to the FBI’s stores.

As the NSA is doing with its domestic spy program, the FBI is using National Security Letters to generate leads as well as to pursue them. This is not the mistake of a few overeager agents ­ it’s the Administration’s plan. It is based on a law which is wide open to abuse, and supported by a culture which ensures abuse happens.

That’s why the use of warrantless National Security Letters to obtain citizens’ records must stop.

MAUREEN WEBB is the author of Illusions of Security: Global Surveillance and Democracy in the Post-9/11 World, just published by City Lights.

 

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail