We appreciate the Nov. 10 editorial "Checking FBI Spying" about the dramatic increase in "national security letters." It raised timely questions about the use of authority granted by the USA Patriot Act. However, the documents that the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) received from the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act regarding domestic intelligence investigations cannot be dismissed as "technical mistakes" or the result of a "complex bureaucracy."
When the FBI determines that domestic intelligence investigations were conducted contrary to law and in violation of the individual rights of U.S. citizens, the law requires that these cases be reported to the Intelligence Oversight Board. Administrative errors do not require reporting to the board.
EPIC obtained documentation of a dozen such referrals. Subsequent reporting uncovered 113 violations since last year. And the numbering system associated with these reports suggests that several hundred such cases may have occurred since passage of the Patriot Act in 2001.
The attorney general and the director of the FBI assured Congress during hearings on the Patriot Act's renewal that they knew of no verified cases of civil liberties abuses. We believe that the administration has not been forthcoming about the extent of the problems with the Patriot Act. Better methods of oversight and reporting are clearly needed.
Electronic Privacy Information Center