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Old 03-18-2007, 11:12 PM  
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The significance of the FBI's law-breaking

The significance of the FBI's law-breaking

A front-page Washington Post article this morning reports that the FBI's illegal use of NSLs was known inside the FBI but continued anyway. The real value of this article is that it keeps this scandal in the spotlight, because there has, thus far, been too little appreciation for just how serious and threatening this rampant FBI lawbreaking really is. The seriousness of this scandal has been, understandably, slightly obscured by the sheer number of other DOJ scandals, so it is worthwhile to note what makes this so significant.

In essence, the FBI and our nation's telecommunications companies have secretly created a framework whereby the FBI can obtain -- instantaneously and without limits -- any information it asks for. The Patriot Act already substantially expanded the circumstances under which the FBI can obtain such records without the need for subpoenas or any judicial process, and it left in place only the most minimal limitations and protections. But it is those very minimal safeguards which the FBI continuously violated in order to obtain whatever information its agents desired, about any Americans they targeted, with literally no limits of any kind.

In order to obtain telephone records within this FBI-telecom framework, FBI agents have been simply furnishing letters to the telecom companies -- not even NSLs, just plain letters from an agent -- assuring the telecom companies that (a) the records were needed immediately due to "exigent circumstances" and (b) a subpoena for the records had been submitted to the U.S. Attorneys Office and was in the process of being finalized. Upon receiving that letter, the telecoms provided any records the FBI requested -- instantaneously, via computer.

At times, they would request records for multiple numbers at once, and sometimes for hundreds of numbers. From the DOJ's IG Report (.pdf):



But the law does not allow any such process. They simply invented it outside of any legal framework in order to get the information they wanted. The FBI and the telecom companies, on their own, have basically created a lawless framework whereby FBI agents can obtain whatever information they ask for with no safeguards.

Worse, in many of these cases where these letters were provided, they were completely false -- both because there were no "exigent" circumstances of any kind and there were no subpoenas that were submitted or being processed. So the FBI agents who submitted these instruction letters repeatedly made false statements in order to obtain highly intrusive records. This is the crux of the abuse:



Far worse still, one of the very few safeguards remaining after the Patriot Act is that the records sought by the FBI must at least relate to an actual national security investigation. That is not just some bureaucratic or petty record-keeping requirement. That is what ensures an actual nexus between the records the FBI obtains concerning your private activities and a real national security purpose. Without that limitation, the FBI just has the free-floating power to compile dossiers on whomever they want.

Yet in hundreds of cases (at least), the FBI sought these records even though there was no pending investigation to which the records related. That means that there were no limits on the telecommunications records which the FBI sought and obtained. They just asked for whatever records they wanted, said whatever they had to say in their lawless letters to get them (even when such statements were false), and the telecom companies instantaneously provided the data to the FBI.

As Lambert at Corrente Wire documented, the FBI not only has the right, but the obligation, to store all of the records it obtains on computer data bases which, as I noted earlier this week, are accessible by tens of thousands of government employees, outside private companies, and even foreign governments. The abolition of most legal safeguards on the power of the Federal Government to obtain and store data about the private lives of American citizens is already itself scandalous, but the fact that the FBI has been continuously violating even those few remaining limitations and instead literally obtaining, with the full-scale cooperation of private telecom companies, any information it asks for -- and making false statements in the process -- is a profoundly disturbing revelation. And one should not even need to explain why that is so.

It really ought to go without saying that the Federal Government does not have as one of its purposes the compiling and storing of data about the private lives of citizens. To the extent such activities are necessary to forward genuine law enforcement or investigative purposes, stringent limitations and oversight are critical, otherwise abuse is inevitable. Yet here, the Federal Government has literally been operating in total secrecy for the last six years, wildly expanding its power to obtain whatever information it wants about any Americans it targets, for whatever reasons, and vast data bases are being created and expanded.

And the ultimate and most pitiful irony of all is that the political movement that claimed to stand for a limited Federal Government is the same movement that has ushered in these invasive and lawless practices, resulting in a Federal Government that has more intrusive and more unchecked power to monitor the private lives of American citizens than, by far, it has ever had before. Independently, this whole system created by the FBI all but prevents any scrutiny, since the failure even to serve NSLs or subpoenas for these records makes it extremely difficult to determine which records were obtained and for what purpose -- a significant reason why the IG's office was unable to conclude whether these illegally obtained records were motivated by criminal intent.

The idea that this is just about some sort of bureaucratic negligence with some petty record-keeping requirements -- a defense being mounted by Bush followers -- is just insultingly stupid. The NSLs have been a source of intense controversy for years. Their potential for abuse is self-evident. And yet the FBI has created systems which allow it to circumvent the few safeguards which exist, and they have exploited that lawless system aggressively and repeatedly -- by making clearly false statements and obtaining records they are legally prohibited from obtaining -- all, according to the Post report, with the knowledge of many FBI lawyers and other managers, at the very least.

If we tolerate our government obtaining and storing information about our personal lives and private activities in clear violation of the laws we have enacted in order to limit those surveillance powers, what don't we tolerate? This lawbreaking is rooted in the same ideology of lawlessness that has governed our country since 2001. For that reason, this is the same question engendered by the NSA scandal, multiple revelations of other law-breaking, and now the revelations (almost certainly still incomplete) that the FBI has ignored the legal limitations on its power to monitor and store data concerning the private lives of American citizens.

-- Glenn Greenwald

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwa...nsl/index.html
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Old 03-20-2007, 10:22 AM   #91
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Kotter
That post actually works to; just not in the context of patteeu's comment.
If patteeu is reducing a DOJ report to "spin," because it contains some facts and quotes that are unflattering to his sense of nationalism, then it works very well within the context of his comment.
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Old 03-20-2007, 10:24 AM   #92
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nightwish
If patteeu is reducing a DOJ report to "spin," because it contains some facts and quotes that are unflattering to his sense of nationalism, then it works very well within the context of his comment.
Your failure to grasp the meaning of the concepts like "context" and "facts" isn't surprising, really.

Carry on anyway.
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Old 03-20-2007, 10:32 AM   #93
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Kotter
Your failure to grasp the meaning of the concepts like "context" and "facts" isn't surprising, really.
Well, why don't you edjumacate us, eh? Just what "facts" contained in the DOJ report do you contest as "facts?" What quotes from the DOJ report do you feel were not accurately quoted or adequately contextualized?
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Old 03-20-2007, 10:39 AM   #94
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nightwish
Well, why don't you edjumacate us, eh? Just what "facts" contained in the DOJ report do you contest as "facts?" What quotes from the DOJ report do you feel were not accurately quoted or adequately contextualized?
Unlike you, and others, I don't pretend to have all the facts; I'll await the evidence and facts that will come to light....and give us the full context, motives, and full disclosure of circumstances, that these allegations suggest may have been improper--if what is alleged actually happened.

I'll leave it to folks like you to assume facts and evidence, context and motive....that are have not yet been disclosed, because there hasn't been a full investigation. I'll await the outcome of that investigation before jumping to any conclusions. But, hey, that's just me. Jump away, if it feels good....I guess.
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Old 03-20-2007, 10:47 AM   #95
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Kotter
Unlike you, and others, I don't pretend to have all the facts; I'll await the evidence and facts that will come to light....and give us the full context, motives, and full disclosure of circumstancess, that these allegations suggest may have been improper--if what is alledged actually happened.

I'll leave it to folks like you to assume facts and evidence, context and motive....that are have not yet been disclosed, because there hasn't been a full investigation. I'll await the outcome of that investigation before jumping to any conclusions. But, hey, that's just me. Jump away, if it feels good....I guess.
Kotter, no one is assuming anything. The facts HAVE been disclosed. The investigation HAS been concluded. The DOJ investigated abuses. They reported on the abuses. We are discussing this report. You seem to be holding out for criminal investigations for some reason, but that makes no sense at all. The FBI has already admitted it made these mistakes and needs to correct them (see the quote at the bottom of this post).
The context, motives, and full disclosure of the circumstances are contained in the report. I highly suggest you read it, because its really not that bad. You'll see how the abuses happened and why.

Here's a quote from the author of the report:

Quote:
"We believe the misuses and the problems we found generally were the product of mistakes, carelessness, confusion, sloppiness lack of training, lack of adequate guidance and lack of adequate oversight," Fine said.

"It really was unacceptable and inexcusable what happened here," he added under questioning.
For anyone who knows who James Sensenbrenner is, you will understand that this is not a partisan issue when you hear this quote:

Quote:
"I hope that this would be a lesson to the FBI that they can't get away with this and expect to maintain public support," said Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, the House Judiciary Committee's former Republican chairman. "Let this be a warning."
Sensenbrenner is about as Republican as they come, so he is not "spinning" or engaging in "partisan politics." He is speaking about evidence presented by the DOJ's watchdog.

The FBI has acknowledged they were wrong.

Quote:
Valerie Caproni, the FBI's general counsel, said she took responsibility for the abuses and believed they could be fixed in a matter of months.

"We're going to have to work to get the trust of this committee back, and we know that's what we have to do, and we're going to do it," she said.


Here is the source for all these quotes: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories...MPLATE=DEFAULT

Please stop trying to paint this as a partisan witch hunt.
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Old 03-20-2007, 10:59 AM   #96
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noa949
I provided a link to the report earlier in the thread, so if you want to take a look at it, you will see that the report details abuses both by the FBI and by third parties. There are also several types of abuses, some of which have to do with a bad reporting system, so they likely won't occur again since after this report. Overall, I'm not saying that this report details massive abuses. It doesn't. The report is actually evenhanded and acknowledges the difficult position the FBI is in between balancing security with civil rights concerns. Still, the FBI did exceed the parameters of the PATRIOT Act in a few instances that are documented in the report, and the fact that we know about this and are concerned about it has nothing to do with "partisan politics."
This is not "spin" or "propaganda" as Mr. Kotter has repeatedly claimed. Its simply the results of a DOJ report. That's all.
The opinion article Zach posted to start this thread is obviously someone's take on the issue, but the issue itself is quite clearly non-partisan and not propaganda.
I saw the link, I just don't have time to read a 200 page document right now. FWIW, I don't disagree at all with your characterization of that report. My issue is with anyone who takes the Salon "synopsis" at face value as a faithful recitation of those abuses. Maybe it is, but I suspect it is closer to one of those movies that is "based on a true story." The spin charge, at least the one I leveled, is aimed at the guy who wrote the Salon article not at the underlying investigation or the report you cited. Ditto for any reference to propaganda. The issue is real and I'm perfectly willing to accept that there are some Patriot Act abuses included, but I'm not willing to simply accept that this guy's opinion is a good place to start to understand those abuses unless you do so with a skeptical eye. The same skeptical eye, btw, that should be used when reading or listening to any partisan interpretation.

I think we are largely in agreement here, aren't we?
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Old 03-20-2007, 11:01 AM   #97
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Originally Posted by patteeu
I think we are largely in agreement here, aren't we?
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Old 03-20-2007, 11:03 AM   #98
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nightwish
If patteeu is reducing a DOJ report to "spin," because it contains some facts and quotes that are unflattering to his sense of nationalism, then it works very well within the context of his comment.
I'm not disappointed with your failure of comprehension. Congratulations on managing my expectations so well.
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Old 03-20-2007, 11:56 AM   #99
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noa949
Kotter, no one is assuming anything. The facts HAVE been disclosed. The investigation HAS been concluded. The DOJ investigated abuses. They reported on the abuses. We are discussing this report. You seem to be holding out for criminal investigations for some reason, but that makes no sense at all. The FBI has already admitted it made these mistakes and needs to correct them (see the quote at the bottom of this post).
The context, motives, and full disclosure of the circumstances are contained in the report. I highly suggest you read it, because its really not that bad. You'll see how the abuses happened and why.

Here's a quote from the author of the report:

For anyone who knows who James Sensenbrenner is, you will understand that this is not a partisan issue when you hear this quote:

Sensenbrenner is about as Republican as they come, so he is not "spinning" or engaging in "partisan politics." He is speaking about evidence presented by the DOJ's watchdog.

The FBI has acknowledged they were wrong.

Here is the source for all these quotes: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories...MPLATE=DEFAULT

Please stop trying to paint this as a partisan witch hunt.
Thanks for the more credible link. Part of my reaction is certainly driven by the fact the initial post is from Salon.com and it's an opinion column. Sorry, but that immediately sends off whistles and bells, and flashing red lights in my mind. I certainly didn't take the time to wade through a 200 page report. However, now that I've gotten more perspective on it...the Salon.com reaction still seems way over the top to me.

If anything, this is yet another episode that the "system worked." Irregularities and abuses were identified, and Congress did its job--even the Republicans, amazingly enough. Similar abuses are unlikely to be repeated, given this scrutiny. That's good news. So the system worked, didn't it? The FBI has confessed, and been taken to the woodshed.

However, the political witchhunt and "spin" though will continue for weeks, I'm sure....in propaganda like that at Salon.com. That's where the "spin" and witchhunts are, IMO. Just a left wing version of Rush Limbaugh. They both are examples of one of the major things wrong with politics these days, IMO.
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Old 03-20-2007, 11:58 AM   #100
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Originally Posted by Mr. Kotter
If anything, this is yet another episode that the "system worked." Irregularities and abuses were identified, and Congress did it's job. Similar abuses are unlikely to be repeated, given this scrutiny. That's good news. So the system worked, didn't it? The FBI has confessed, and been taken to the woodshed.
Absolutely. I am impressed that the government identified these issues, and I also think the FBI will make the necessary changes.
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Old 03-20-2007, 12:07 PM   #101
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Originally Posted by noa949
Absolutely. I am impressed that the government identified these issues, and I also think the FBI will make the necessary changes.
I agree. And the thing is, oversight and internal investigations like these much more often succeed than not. Yet, WHAT is it that the press and talking heads and blogs.....obsess about?

Of course, it's the more rare instances in which the system fails. And it's this poisonous and parasitic environment that has created this climate of suspicion, cynicism, and distrust in politics--on BOTH sides of the isle. We've become so inundated with negative stories, investigations, and extreme partisanship that we've been numbed by it.

And then folks wonder WHY average Americans just tune it all out....
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Old 03-20-2007, 12:35 PM   #102
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Originally Posted by Mr. Kotter
Thanks for the more credible link. Part of my reaction is certainly driven by the fact the initial post is from Salon.com and it's an opinion column. Sorry, but that immediately sends off whistles and bells, and flashing red lights in my mind. I certainly didn't take the time to wade through a 200 page report. However, now that I've gotten more perspective on it...the Salon.com reaction still seems way over the top to me.

If anything, this is yet another episode that the "system worked." Irregularities and abuses were identified, and Congress did its job--even the Republicans, amazingly enough. Similar abuses are unlikely to be repeated, given this scrutiny. That's good news. So the system worked, didn't it? The FBI has confessed, and been taken to the woodshed.

However, the political witchhunt and "spin" though will continue for weeks, I'm sure....in propaganda like that at Salon.com. That's where the "spin" and witchhunts are, IMO. Just a left wing version of Rush Limbaugh. They both are examples of one of the major things wrong with politics these days, IMO.
I'd just point out that to the extent that the "system worked," the Department of Justice deserves just as much credit and attention, if not more than does Congress. Congress gets some credit for the part it played in coming up with this monitoring scheme, but the Department of Justice under AG Gonzalez was responsible for implementing the scheme and producing this report on it's own FBI. This is in marked contrast to his supposedly highly-partisan actions in the USA firing situation, as suggested but not supported by some on this board.

This assumes, of course, that the report is indeed a full and fair accounting.
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Old 03-20-2007, 02:33 PM   #103
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Quote:
Originally Posted by patteeu
I'm not disappointed with your failure of comprehension. Congratulations on managing my expectations so well.
The comments that he made which you referred to as spin weren't from the Salon article, they were in reference to the DOJ article that he had already earlier linked to. Although you admit to not having been bothered to read the DOJ documents, obviously someone else had read at least part of it and had posted some of the relevant content. By that time, we had the horse's mouth as evidence, and the Salon article was all but forgotten. He linked to that report all the way back in post #25, and insisted in nearly half a dozen other posts that his comments were in regard to the DOJ actual report, not the Salon article, but for some reason, you and Kotter just couldn't get it into your heads that he was talking about anything but an op-ed piece. Your "spin" denial came a day late and a dollar short.
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Old 03-20-2007, 02:38 PM   #104
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Kotter
Thanks for the more credible link. Part of my reaction is certainly driven by the fact the initial post is from Salon.com and it's an opinion column. Sorry, but that immediately sends off whistles and bells, and flashing red lights in my mind.
It's just kind of funny that it took 74 posts after he posted that link and about a half a dozen attempts by noa949 to point out to you that he wasn't talking about the Salon article, before your red lights and whistles settled down enough for you to actually understand what you were reading.
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Old 03-20-2007, 06:09 PM   #105
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Originally Posted by Nightwish
The comments that he made which you referred to as spin weren't from the Salon article, they were in reference to the DOJ article that he had already earlier linked to. Although you admit to not having been bothered to read the DOJ documents, obviously someone else had read at least part of it and had posted some of the relevant content. By that time, we had the horse's mouth as evidence, and the Salon article was all but forgotten. He linked to that report all the way back in post #25, and insisted in nearly half a dozen other posts that his comments were in regard to the DOJ actual report, not the Salon article, but for some reason, you and Kotter just couldn't get it into your heads that he was talking about anything but an op-ed piece. Your "spin" denial came a day late and a dollar short.
How consistent. You're wrong as usual. I'll grant you that Zach's post leaves a little to be desired in the understandability category, but it's pretty unlikely that he was referring to the DOJ documents since his response comes just a few minutes after noa949 posted the first link to the documents and since his response is in a series of back and forth posts between Zach and Kotter in which the merits of the Salon editorial are being discussed. My response came long after the DOJ documents had been linked but that's irrelevant. I think my subsequent posts make it clear that I was talking about the editorial even if you couldn't figure it out from that original post and the overwhelming contextual clues.
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"I'll see you guys in New York." ISIS Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to US military personnel upon his release from US custody at Camp Bucca in Iraq during Obama's first year in office.
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