Monday, March 12, 2007

FBI Snooping Goes Too Far

According to a report over the weekend, FBI Director Robert Mueller admitted that the FBI overused an administrative procedure (administrative letters or National Security Letters) allowing them to gain access to personal information without a court order. These administrative letters or National Security Letters (1) (2) allow agents to bypass the normal legal way of doing things- getting a signed search warrant from a Federal Judge before conducting searches. This administrative procedure, which is usually done by FBI supervisors, was made possible after 9/11 through the Patriot Act. This procedure was originally intended to be used in very limited circumstances and during emergencies, when it may not be possible to consult a Federal Judge. However, according to the Department of Justice Inspector General, the FBI has been using the procedure for everyday routine work.

This is one of the main issues that bothered me about the Patriot Act, because it allowed Federal agents to bypass standard procedures required by the Constitution- mainly seeking a search warrant and demonstrating cause for snooping into private lives of citizens.

This is shaping up to be an interesting fight. Democrats are having a hard time with Iraq, because many of the circumstances are beyond their control. Although Iraq is of utmost importance, voters are also watching how Democrats will perform on issues like this one, where they have more control over the situation, and are expected to provide strong oversight.

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