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EFF Uncovers Widespread FBI Intelligence Violations 268

An anonymous reader writes "EFF has uncovered widespread violations stemming from FBI intelligence investigations from 2001 — 2008. In a report released today, EFF documents alarming trends in the Bureau's intelligence investigation practices, suggesting that FBI intelligence investigations have compromised the civil liberties of American citizens far more frequently, and to a greater extent, than was previously assumed. Using documents obtained through EFF's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation, the report finds: Evidence of delays of 2.5 years, on average, between the occurrence of a violation and its eventual reporting to the Intelligence Oversight Board; reports of serious misconduct by FBI agents including lying in declarations to courts, using improper evidence to obtain grand jury subpoenas, and accessing password-protected files without a warrant; and indications that the FBI may have committed upwards of 40,000 possible intelligence violations in the 9 years since 9/11."
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EFF Uncovers Widespread FBI Intelligence Violations

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  • Of course they did (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ravenspear ( 756059 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @09:20PM (#35052400)

    If you give the government an inch, they take a mile.

    We've seen it before.

    With this being known fact, the politicians are to blame for enacting the Patriot Act without even reading it just because they needed something to trumpet in the media that would appear patriotic after 9/11.

  • How long? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zeroblitzt ( 871307 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @09:21PM (#35052406) Homepage
    How long until this is swept under the rug and American Idol is the headline news again?
  • Re:How long? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 30, 2011 @09:28PM (#35052442)

    "EFF documents alarming trends in the Bureau's intelligence investigation practices" (emphasis mine). I'd say this won't even get to headline news in the first place.

  • Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomthepom ( 314977 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @09:31PM (#35052462)

    ...and indications that the FBI may have committed upwards of 40,000 possible crimes in the 9 years since 9/11.

    There, fixed that for you.

  • Re:How long? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Amorymeltzer ( 1213818 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @09:33PM (#35052482)
    No need. Our congress voted immunity to the telecoms who violated the law and our privacy, so of course they'll do the same for an agency actually <i>part</i> of the government. Using laws to sanction violations of the law is perverse but hey, you gotta protect your own! These FOIAs are from 2008 or so, so the real test is to file now and see if anything has changed since Obama took over the executive.
  • Morons (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @09:35PM (#35052502)
    So they release this at the exact same time one of the largest middle eastern countries is undergoing a revolution? I EXPECT the FBI to be pulling shit like this, and rely on organizations like the EFF to uncover it. But if the EFF is so Tech and New Media savvy, it didn't occur to them that they might want to release this information on a slow news day as apposed to releasing it in the middle of the biggest story to hit the media in the past 2 years? there by assuring it will be completely missed by Mondays new cycle?!?! It's just plain incompetent.
  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @09:46PM (#35052592)
    Unfortunately, no... we are to blame. Stop voting Democrat/Republican if you want to get off this merry-go-round.
  • by besalope ( 1186101 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @09:53PM (#35052634)
    That won't accomplish anything. The proles will just change the channel to their "American Idol" or other similar drivel when they get bored. The American public is too apathetic about the political institution in this country to actual pay attention to what it does or to even have a hope of real change.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 30, 2011 @09:55PM (#35052658)

    The summary makes it seem like a big number but if the FBI has ~36K people working for it that's just over 1 violation per employee in those 9 years. I'd expect to make at least one mistake in 9 years.

    I'm sure they made more than one mistake per individual. We are not talking about simple mistakes here. We are talking about violating people's civil rights and then covering it up. That's a lot different than someone making a typo or something.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 30, 2011 @09:57PM (#35052666)

    I agree whole-heartedly. Governments almost never return power to the people once given.

    Here's a solution to the problem with the FBI. Prosecute each violation vigorously and to the fullest extent of the law. Any member of law enforcement should exemplify the standard and therefore be fully accountable to it. Perjury is typically a felony in most jurisdictions and any FBI agent (or any other agent given special powers) should spend time in federal prison for such a crime. This will provide ample time to consider how they've trampled underfoot the blood of those who died to preserve the freedom Americans enjoy.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 30, 2011 @10:12PM (#35052740)

    Yeah, but who are you going to get to prosecute them. And even if you did find a prosecutor how long do you think it would take before someone visited them off the record to make sure that their case failed.

    Democracy is a sham, we live in republics and the bureaucracy controls the them.

  • by Firehed ( 942385 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @10:14PM (#35052762) Homepage

    Abuses like this aren't exactly like speeding (which aside from being quite possible to do without trying or even realizing it, is relatively harmless) - you have to go out of your way to set up wiretaps and perform other actions that violate America's core values. I can accept a small handful of instances where the time required to go through the proper channels (warrants, etc) would have taken too long, but that should be the exception rather than the rule - and some five thousand times per year is hardly an exception. That basically means one of three things - the process is broken, these people are doing things they have no need, right, or reason to do, or federal policy has agreed upon our constitution being worthless. If the latter is the case, fine - bring on the revolution, since we've voided the existence of our government and all of the laws it has created.

  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @10:24PM (#35052792)

    the system is broken.

    you guys are arguing about which privileged class gets to run the country.

    I question the very NOTION of a privileged class running the country. enough of the rich bastards having their way and taking care of their own!

    term limits should be ONE. period - no renewals. that removes the 'profit incentive' or rather, the come-back-to-get-more-power incentive. you get one term to make a difference and then you're back to your old job; but with oversight to ensure you didn't make some sweetheart deals for post-office kickbacks. there should be a STRICT no profit restriction on public officials. only get the ones that want to do it 'for the right reasons' and not for the money or power.

    arguing about which of the 2 parties - or even if you can get a 3rd - does not change a damned thing. this is a false-choice that is given to you.

    fix the system, remove this party 'us and them' concept and let each person speak on their own terms, on issues. isn't what what we REALLY want? parties are bullshit and serve no useful purpose but to deceive. why keep that outdated notion?

  • by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <> on Sunday January 30, 2011 @10:28PM (#35052812) Homepage Journal

        Too bad there isn't a "Sad but true" moderation.

        Most people ignore things that don't directly involve them. Who cares if [insert agency] commits [insert action] against [someone else]. Until someone finds out that a questionable legal wire tap implicated them in some sort of crime, which could lead to serious jail time through new means, they could care less. As you said, they'll flip over to American Idol and otherwise numb their brains to oblivion.

  • by Lucidus ( 681639 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @10:34PM (#35052836)
    In every decade since I was born (in the early 50's), the FBI has engaged in egregious misconduct, although sometimes we didn't find out about it until years later. I am amazed that they have any credibility left, and puzzled that people continue to act surprised when these things come to light.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 30, 2011 @10:35PM (#35052840)

    Sure, just find me an alternative that's better.

    It's called actually getting to know the candidate and voting candidate by candidate, rather than by party.

    Parties are nothing more than corporations and when you vote for corporations instead of people, you're putting that which is evil (corporate America) in charge of the only entity that can protect us from that evil, our Government.

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @10:42PM (#35052862)

    Here's a solution to the problem with the FBI. Prosecute each violation vigorously and to the fullest extent of the law.

    You are asking the government to prosecute itself. Without a person at the top with a highly developed sense of morality it isn't likely to happen within the same branch of government. Even with such a person at the top, political reality may make it impossible. That's why we have separation of powers. It will ONLY happen if a different branch of government is the one who decides to press the issue. Expecting the executive branch to spank itself is simply wishful thinking most of the time. If congress or the judiciary can be prodded into action, then something might happen. Otherwise, forget it.

    For what it's worth I don't expect much out of Congress either. Very easy to score "soft on crime" political points on someone who criticizes the FBI even if the FBI deserves it.

  • by jhoegl ( 638955 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @10:57PM (#35052942)
    Although I wish differently, this is correct.
    It is interesting to note how many people are apathetic to anothers plight until they have knowledge of a person that they are close to in that same plight.
    While it is true we can not fix the world, we can at least listen and give voice to our opposition.
    Unfortunately, even those that speak of these incidents are also under attack, labeled as "liberal" or "democrat" which somehow translates to "Commies".
    Brain washed masses indeed.
  • by ChatHuant ( 801522 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @10:58PM (#35052944)

    term limits should be ONE. period - no renewals. that removes the 'profit incentive' or rather, the come-back-to-get-more-power incentive. you get one term to make a difference and then you're back to your old job; but with oversight to ensure you didn't make some sweetheart deals for post-office kickbacks.

    Except it won't work. If the official in question knows he won't be in power again, he has no good reason to fix anything; it's not like *he*'ll have to deal with the consequences. On the contrary, he'll have a strong incentive to fill his pockets as much and as quickly as he can, since it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. Something similar happened in Eastern Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when Ottoman sultans named merchants of Greek origin [] as delegate rulers of some of the vassal countries. Those Phanariots got the nomination via massive bribes, and, once the rulership was obtained, their main objective was to recoup the expenses and get rich quick, before somebody else replaced them, That led to massive mismanagement, excessive taxes and general misrule.

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @11:15PM (#35053028)

    Keep in mind that it was formed during the great depression to take on Bonny and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, Machine Gun Kelly and John Dillinger. The focus from the get go was on results over process. It's a lot better now than it was under J. Edgar Hoover, but that's not really saying much. The first crop of agents were trained very quickly to shoot first and ask questions later if ever.

  • by dbarclay10 ( 70443 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @11:36PM (#35053154)

    Of course they did If you give the government an inch, they take a mile.

    Let me fix that for you: If you give anybody (particularly an asshole) an inch, they take a mile. Oh, and cops are generally assholes.

  • by misexistentialist ( 1537887 ) on Monday January 31, 2011 @12:01AM (#35053270)
    "Misconduct" is not "a mistake". You might be used to ending up in jail every 9 years or so, but that's not normal.
  • Re:Morons (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mkiwi ( 585287 ) on Monday January 31, 2011 @12:07AM (#35053296)

    The idea that a group should "hold on to the information for a better time" is really not in the public's interest

    Tell that to the people from Wikileaks. I've been looking forward to the leaks on US banks, but I haven't seen them yet.

    If you have the news in your hand, you report/divulge it ASAP. If the timing sucks, well, then it sucks.

    Thinking of reporting in "black or white" terms, as you are proposing, fails to take into account the subtleties of human communication. The world has more than 10 options.
    (Yeah, I know. I must be new here.)

  • Wrong argument (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snsh ( 968808 ) on Monday January 31, 2011 @12:11AM (#35053322)
    I cringe whenever I see an argument by the ACLU, EFF, etc that something has "compromised the civil liberties of American citizens", because they're making the wrong argument by casting it the opposite way it should be cast.

    When you make a claim like that, the response is always going to be "was any harm done?" and the answer to that is usually "no, no harm was actually done" and then the response to that becomes "stop being a sissy, no harm no foul. unless you're up to something illegal, you've got nothing to worry about."

    What the EFF should be claiming is that "government employees abuse the limits of their power". You have to focus the argument on the action, not the reaction. The way the Constitution is written, it doesn't guarantee the civil liberties of Americans. Instead, it limits the scope of authority of the federal government.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 31, 2011 @12:30AM (#35053412)

    1 violation of ones civil rights or liberties is too many.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 31, 2011 @05:53AM (#35054656)

    Just for a moment let's give the public a mite more credit. I peg them at "we're upset but what can we really do?"

    Well they can start by turning off their normal "News" stations, and switch their TV over to CSPAN.
    Then they can call whatever political party they are a member of and cancel their membership.
    Then they can stop voting against people, and start voting for people who they actually think will be good leaders.

    Or to put it another way, they can try doing anything other than sitting around on their asses bitching about how they don't like shit. Well, when you allow people to spoon-feed you and change your diaper and wipe your ass, you tend to end up living at their mercy.

  • by Stray7Xi ( 698337 ) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:24AM (#35055196)

    Usually it's not so clear-cut. Who do you prosecute:

    -The manager who was told by the lawyer it was legal and he didn't know the full extent of what was going on.
    -The lawyer who was doing his best attempt to interpret law but came to a different conclusion then the judge
    -The individual executing the wiretap under order from management and who received compliance training from the lawyer who misinterpreted law.

    I would say reprimand the manager and remove him from leadership. Rotate lawyers so they don't get complacent. Finally reprimand the individual and require he have oversight by a coworker for a period. Then conduct retraining of whole office by legal.

    The real problem is when you try to go to the very edge of the line every time, sometimes you'll accidentally cross it with no maliciousness. That's the difference between a novice and an experienced bowler. When it happens it's probably because the individual wasn't trained well enough or didn't have good enough access to legal. I think it's a case of Hanlon's Razor.

  • by easterberry ( 1826250 ) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:57AM (#35055298)

    The problem with this is that you assume the people you're marching with have the same idea of what they want as you do.

    I can make my army of people for a government that cares about the greater good of the people instead of corporate interest and it sounds nice and all but what does it really mean? Are we saying we want a single payer medical system so the poor don't get left behind? or are we complaining that they even considered such an option? Are we upset about going to war or about leaving too early? Do we need the government to give us more or less gun control and what makes you sure everyone marching all agree on any of these points?

    I can make my army of the people, and you can make yours and the government doesn't have to do a thing because we both consider each other a group of dangerous lunatics who must be stopped before they send our country spiraling into a warfare/welfare state. And this isn't because we're brainwashed. It's because we intrinsically don't all agree. That's why the election is so close to 50/50. I think the people who want to run around with guns and hate government healthcare are wrong and they thing the same about me. You can't make an army for the unified voice of the people because there is no "unified voice of the people".

  • by cbiltcliffe ( 186293 ) on Monday January 31, 2011 @09:24AM (#35055448) Homepage Journal

    If all of those 7000 criminals were somehow murders, rapists, child molesters etc etc... then by all means, I don't care if they don't get a warrant or whatever, get those peeps off the streets ASAP but if there were people who were wrongfully accused because of lack of evidence and stuff...

    The problem is, there is no discernible difference to a jury between these two situations:

    1. We searched his house and car illegally without a warrant, but found all this evidence. Convict the bastard.

    2. We couldn't find any evidence, and didn't have enough probably cause for a warrant, but we're sure the guy's guilty because we don't like his face, so we're just going to say we searched his house and car and found all this evidence, even though we didn't.

    Warrantless evidence has a much higher possibility to be fabricated, which is one of the reasons it's not allowed.

  • Re:Freedom (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fishthegeek ( 943099 ) on Monday January 31, 2011 @09:33AM (#35055514) Journal
    No it isn't. It's alive and well thank you. Take a tour of a few Asian countries, or better yet the Mid East. All governments will have problems, and if you foolishly believe in (insert Utopian ideal here) then you are bound for a lifetime of disappointment.
  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday January 31, 2011 @09:37AM (#35055540) Homepage

    Except that in this case, the violations were that clear-cut. And the best argument is that all 3 are potentially guilty of a serious crime.

    If I go to a lawyer and say "Is it legal to rob a bank?" and the lawyer says "Yes, go right ahead", I'm still in trouble if I go to rob a bank. The lawyer may also be considered a co-conspirator, and at the very least should have his bar membership in question. And anyone I work with as part of the plan is also a co-conspirator. Why would the crime of a FISA violation be any different?

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford