EFF has obtained a big bunch of documents from the FBI via the Freedom of Information Act pertaining to its surveillance abuses. From the EFF announcement:
EFF has obtained FBI documents showing years of chronic problems with its use of National Security Letters (NSLs). The issue first drew widespread attention four months ago, when the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General released a report [31M PDF] revealing extensive misuse of NSLs in a sampling of four FBI field offices.
I blogged about the Inspector General’s report here.
Among other things, the documents reveal that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales received several reports about FBI abuses before declaring to Congress that there were no instances of civil liberties abuses. According to a story in the Washington Post based on the EFF documents:
As he sought to renew the USA Patriot Act two years ago, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales assured lawmakers that the FBI had not abused its potent new terrorism-fighting powers. “There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse,” Gonzales told senators on April 27, 2005.
Six days earlier, the FBI sent Gonzales a copy of a report that said its agents had obtained personal information that they were not entitled to have. It was one of at least half a dozen reports of legal or procedural violations that Gonzales received in the three months before he made his statement to the Senate intelligence committee, according to internal FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The acts recounted in the FBI reports included unauthorized surveillance, an illegal property search and a case in which an Internet firm improperly turned over a compact disc with data that the FBI was not entitled to collect, the documents show. Gonzales was copied on each report that said administrative rules or laws protecting civil liberties and privacy had been violated.
The reports also alerted Gonzales in 2005 to problems with the FBI’s use of an anti-terrorism tool known as a national security letter (NSL), well before the Justice Department’s inspector general brought widespread abuse of the letters in 2004 and 2005 to light in a stinging report this past March.