The Federal Bureau of Investigation made numerous “improper and illegal” uses of the investigative tool known as “national security letters,” by which it gathers information in national security cases, a report (large pdf) by the Justice Department Inspector General found.
The abuses identified by the Inspector General “did not involve criminal misconduct,” the report said. “However, the improper or illegal uses we found included serious misuses of national security letter authority.”
These included the collection of information not permitted by law, the collection of information on persons not properly the subject of an FBI investigation, the failure to identify and report such errors, and quite a bit more.
See “A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Use of National Security Letters,” DoJ Office of Inspector General, March 2007 (199 pages in a large 35 MB 12 MB PDF file) (Thanks to Prof. Edward P. Richards for providing a compressed, searchable version of this document).
In a statement today, the FBI did not dispute the new report’s conclusions.
“The Inspector General conducted a fair and objective review of the FBI’s use of a proven and useful investigative tool,” said Director Robert S. Mueller, III, “and his finding of deficiencies in our processes is unacceptable.”
The development of the FBI’s counterintelligence role in the crucible of pre-World War II security concerns is detailed in an interesting new book from the excellent University of Kansas Press. See “The Origins of FBI Counterintelligence” by Raymond J. Batvinis, Univ of Kansas Press, March 2007.