lthough illegal practices and violations were reported by the FBI
to the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) after an unexplained
two-and-a-half-year delay, a further violation of lawful guidelines,
lawbreaking continued unabated; in fact, it accelerated as the Bureau
was given a green light to do so by successive U.S. administrations.
The IOB is a largely toothless body created in 1976 by the Ford
administration in the wake of disclosures of widespread spying and
infiltration of political groups by America's secret state agencies
during the sixties and seventies.
Reeling from revelations uncovered by Congress, investigative
journalists and citizen activists in the wake of the Watergate scandal,
Ford's caretaker government was forced to call a halt to the more
egregious practices employed by the FBI to keep the lid on and crafted
guidelines governing intelligence and surveillance operations.
In fact, the Attorney General's Guidelines regulating both FBI
National Security Investigations and Foreign Intelligence Collection (NSIG
stipulate that "all government intelligence operations occur with
sufficient oversight and within the bounds of the Constitution and other
While it can rightly be argued these protocols were largely
ineffective, and had been breeched more often than not by the 1980s
under President Reagan, as revealed during the Iran-Contra scandal, and
that antiwar, environmental and solidarity groups continue to be spied
upon and destabilized by agents provocateurs
and right-wing corporate scum
, they were thrown overboard entirely by the Bush regime in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Today the "looking forward, not backward" Obama administration has
whole-heartedly embraced Bushist lawlessness while charting an even more
sinister course of their own, now asserting they have the authority to
assassinate American citizens the Executive Branch designate as
"terrorists" anywhere on earth without benefit of due process or court
According to EFF, more than 2,500 documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that:
From 2001 to 2008, the FBI reported to the IOB approximately 800
violations of laws, Executive Orders, or other regulations governing
intelligence investigations, although this number likely significantly
under-represents the number of violations that actually occurred.
* From 2001 to 2008, the FBI investigated, at minimum, 7000 potential
violations of laws, Executive Orders, or other regulations governing
* Based on the proportion of violations
reported to the IOB and the FBI's own statements regarding the number of
NSL [National Security Letter] violations that occurred, the actual
number of violations that may have occurred from 2001 to 2008 could
approach 40,000 possible violations of law, Executive Order, or other
regulations governing intelligence investigations. (Electronic Frontier
Foundation, Patterns of Misconduct: FBI Intelligence Violations from 2001-2008, January 30, 2011)
But FBI lawbreaking didn't stop there. Citing internal
documents, EFF revealed that the Bureau also "engaged in a number of
flagrant legal violations" that included, "submitting false or
inaccurate declarations to courts," "using improper evidence to obtain
federal grand jury subpoenas" and "accessing password protected
documents without a warrant."
In other words, in order to illegally spy on Americans and haul
political dissidents before Star Chamber-style grand juries, the FBI
routinely committed perjury and did so with absolute impunity.
the more than 2,500 documents EFF analysts averred that they had
"uncovered alarming trends in the Bureau's intelligence investigation
practices" and that the "documents suggest the FBI's intelligence
investigations have compromised the civil liberties of American citizens
far more frequently, and to a greater extent, than was previously
According to EFF, the "documents show that the FBI most frequently
committed three types of intelligence violations--violations of internal
oversight guidelines for conducting investigations; violations stemming
from the abuse of National Security Letters; and violations of the
Fourth Amendment, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and
other laws governing intelligence investigations."
"Based on statements made by government officials and the proportion
of violations occurring in the released reports," EFF estimates that
"the FBI may have committed as many as 40,000 intelligence investigation
violations over the past ten years."
The civil liberties' watchdogs revealed that the type of violation
occurring most frequently involved the Bureau's abuse of National
Security Letters (NSLs), onerous lettres de cachet,
secretive administrative subpoenas with built-in gag orders used by the
FBI to seize records from third-parties without any judicial review
Although National Security Letters have been employed by
investigators since the 1970s, after 9/11 Congress passed the repressive
USA PATRIOT Act which "greatly expanded the intelligence community's
authority to issue NSLs."
"During the course of a terrorism or counterintelligence
investigation," EFF writes, "NSLs can be used to obtain just three types
of records: (1) subscriber and 'toll billing information' from
telephone companies and 'electronic communications services;' (2)
financial records from banks and other financial institutions; and (3)
consumer identifying information and the identity of financial
institutions from credit bureaus."
Abuses have been well-documented by the Justice Department's own Office of the Inspector General. In their 2008 report
the OIG disclosed that the FBI issued some 200,000 requests and that
almost 60% were for investigations of U.S. citizens and legal residents.
Given the symbiosis amongst American secret state agencies and
grifting corporations, EFF discovered that "the frequency with which
companies [received] NSLs--phone companies, internet providers, banks,
or credit bureaus--contributed to the FBI’s NSL abuse."
"In over half of all NSL violations reviewed by EFF, the private
entity receiving the NSL either provided more information than requested
or turned over information without receiving a valid legal
justification from the FBI."
In fact, "companies were all too willing to comply with the FBI's
requests, and--in many cases--the Bureau readily incorporated the
over-produced information into its investigatory databases."
too is hardly surprising, given the enormous profits generated by the
surveillance state for their corporate beneficiaries. As The Washington Post revealed in their investigative series, Top Secret America
more than 800,000 corporate employees have been issued top secret and
above security clearances. Beholden to their employers and not the
public who foots the bill and is the victim of their excesses,
accountability is a fiction and oversight a contemptible fraud.
In a follow-up piece, Monitoring America
investigative journalists Dana Priest and William M. Arkin revealed
that the FBI "is building a database with the names and certain personal
information, such as employment history, of thousands of U.S. citizens
and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed
to be acting suspiciously."
In other words, in order to "keep us safe" unaccountable securocrats
are constructing a Stasi-like political intelligence system that has
overthrown the traditional legal concept of probable cause in favor of a
regime rooted in fear and suspicion; one where innocent activities such
as taking a photograph or attending an antiwar rally now serves as a
pretext for opening a national security investigation.
According to Priest and Arkin, the Bureau database "is accessible to
an increasing number of local law enforcement and military criminal
investigators, increasing concerns that it could somehow end up in the
public domain," and used by employers to terminate political dissidents
or other "undesirable" citizens merely on the basis of allegations
emanating from who knows where.
As Antifascist Calling
reported in October, "predictive behavior" security firms, generously funded by the CIA's venture capitalist arm, In-Q-Tel
have increasingly turned to monitoring social media sites such as
Blogger, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube and are exploiting
powerful computer algorithms for their clients--your boss--thereby
transforming private communications into "actionable intelligence" that
just might get you fired.
In one case, EFF discovered that the FBI "requested email header
information for two email addresses used by a U.S. person." In response,
researchers averred "the email service provider returned two CDs
containing the full content of all emails in the accounts. The FBI
eventually (and properly) sequestered the CDs, notified the email
provider of the overproduction, and re-issued an NSL for the originally
requested header information; but, in response to the second NSL, the
email provider again provided the FBI with the full content of all
emails in the accounts."
To make matters worse, "third-parties not only willingly cooperated
with FBI NSLs when the legal justification was unclear, however: they
responded to NSLs without any legal justification at all."
conclusion, EFF wrote that "while the reports documenting the FBI's
abuse of the Constitution, FISA, and other intelligence laws are
troubling, EFF's analysis is necessarily incomplete: it is impossible to
know the severity of the FBI's legal violations until the Bureau stops
concealing its most serious violations behind a wall of arbitrary
This sordid state of affairs is likely to continue given Congress's
utter lack of interest in protecting Americans'
constitutionally-protected right to privacy, free speech and assembly.
With new moves afoot in Congress
pass a data retention law that requires internet service providers to
retain records of users' online activity or, as in the repressive
Egyptian U.S. client state, handing the Executive Branch a "kill-switch"
that would disconnect the American people from the internet in the
event of a "national emergency," the U.S. oligarchy is planning for the
As the World Socialist Web Site
out, "The US government is well aware that the Internet provides a
forum for rapid communication and organization, as demonstrated by the
events in Egypt this week. In an attempt to block communication within
Egypt and with the external world, US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak cut
off the country's access to the Internet altogether."
"Similarly," left-wing journalist Patrick Zimmerman writes, "the
fundamental goal of the US government in its attempts to gain control of
the Internet and monitor user activity has nothing to do with the 'war
on terror' or prosecuting criminals. Under conditions of growing social
inequality, government austerity, and expanding war abroad, the
government anticipates the growth of social opposition in the United
The Bush regime's "preemptive war" doctrine has been fully
incorporated into the Obama administration's "homeland security"
paradigm. The formidable police state apparatus that accompanies
America's imperial adventures abroad are now deployed at home where they
have devastating effects on an already dysfunctional democracy sliding
ever-closer towards an authoritarian abyss.