FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

"Trust Us" Doesn’t Cut It Any More

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.

 

More articles by:

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees.

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposal Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail