In the “It seems like this stuff is getting more frequent all the time” department it seems that there’s another round of the FBI admitting that they’ve once again been improperly using “Security letters” to get access to phone and Internet records of U.S. citizens.  (This time they’re talking about events that happened in 2006.)

This makes four straight years that they’ve been forced to admit to this kind of breach of the privacy and (in my opinion) constitutional rights of U.S. citizens.  FBI Director Robert Mueller testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the abuses occurred before reforms put in place in 2007.  He actually blamed the breaches in part on the telecommunications companies, saying that this was caused in part

“by banks, telecommunication companies and other private businesses giving the FBI more personal client data than was requested.”

Of course, speaking of the FBI and their (mis)use of Security letters, it seems that they have once again seriously under reported the number of these letters that were used and that they actually used over 4600 MORE of them than were actually reported for 2006.

There’s been a lot more (mis)use of these security letters since the Patriot Act was implemented which, among other things, granted agencies like the FBI much more sweeping power than they’ve had before.  In 2005 over a thousand of them were found to be “improper” in 2005 and it wouldn’t surprise me if that number was even higher for 2006 and beyond.

Just to be clear, here’s what those “Security letters” are:

National security letters, as outlined in the USA Patriot Act, are administrative subpoenas used in suspected terrorism and espionage cases. They allow the FBI to require telephone companies, Internet service providers, banks, credit bureaus and other businesses to produce highly personal records about their customers or subscribers without a judge’s approval

Basically, the Patriot Act has allowed the FBI to do an end run around the judicial system and not only issue a subpoena without a judge signing off on it (like the constitution requires), but to also includes a built in gag order that requires those are given one to keep quiet about it.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  The USA Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act are two of the biggest violations of constitutional freedoms and civil liberties, as well as major sources of injustice and ever perpetrated on the American people and the sooner they’re repealed the better.

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