WASHINGTON — Senior officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation repeatedly approved the use of “blanket” records demands to justify the improper collection of thousands of phone records, according to officials briefed on the practice.
The bureau appears to have used the blanket records demands at least 11 times in 2006 alone as a quick way to clean up mistakes made over several years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to a letter provided to Congress by a lawyer for an F.B.I. agent who witnessed the missteps.
I am currently reading “Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA.” If this book is any indication, then incompetence, lying and CYA are much more common in the intelligence services than actual intelligence-gathering. So far, the FBI is apparently running true to form.
The F.B.I. has come under fire for its use of so-called national security letters to inappropriately gather records on Americans in terrorism investigations, but details have not previously been disclosed about its use of “blanket” warrants, a one-step operation used to justify the collection of hundreds of phone and e-mail records at a time.
By 2006, F.B.I. officials began learning that the bureau had issued thousands of “exigent” or emergency records demands to phone providers in situations where no life-threatening emergency existed, according to the account of Mr. Youssef, who worked with the phone companies in collecting records in terrorism investigations. In these situations, the F.B.I. had promised the private companies that the emergency records demands would be followed up with formal subpoenas or properly processed letters, but often, the follow-up material never came.
This created a backlog of records that the F.B.I. had obtained without going through proper procedures. In response, the letter said, the F.B.I. devised a plan: rather than issuing national security letters retroactively for each individual investigation, it would issue the blanket letters to cover all the records obtained from a particular phone company.
So to cover up their illegal activities, they committed more crimes. Awesome! What’s even more terrifying is that the Bush DOJ is actually uncovering this scandal. Imagine the whitewashing that went on BEFORE this story leaked to the press!
I have come to believe that our “intelligence” services are not a boon, but a hindrance to America in general. The CIA is at the root of most, if not all, of our interventionist foreign policy maneuvers to “defeat Communism” (which for the most part had disastrous consequences). They have aggressively used psy-ops at home and abroad to manipulate Americans into rooting for war since the early 1950’s. And the FBI seems to be more concerned with spying on ordinary Americans and Democrats like Eliot Spitzer than gathering intelligence on actual threats to America.
Our democracy is weak and getting weaker. Let’s hope that our next President will clean house at the DOJ, reform the FBI and CIA, and start bringing transparency back to our government.
And let’s remember that McCaca will never, ever be the one to do this.