FBI’s 5-Year Effort to Avoid Inspector General Scrutiny of Its Phone Dragnet Use

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.15.53 PMAs part of today’s Senate Judiciary Hearing on DOJ OLC’s decision to make DOJ’s Inspector General ask nicely before it gets certain kinds of materials it needs to conduct its work, John Cornyn asked what changed in 2010 to make the FBI start pushing back against sharing information freely with the IG.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz responded,

I was not the Inspector General at that time, but my understanding is that the memos and decisions from the legal counsel at the FBI followed several OIG reviews of the handling of National Security Letters, Exigent Letters, and other hard-hitting OIG reviews, because there was no other change in the law, no policy change, no regulatory change…

Horowitz is suggesting that because Horowitz’ predecessor, Glenn Fine, released reports that showed FBI abuse of national security programs, FBI started pushing back against sharing information. The claim is particularly interesting given that the Exigent Letters report, which was released in January 2010, significantly implicated FBI’s General Counsel’s office, including then General Counsel and now lifetime appointed judge (with Cornyn’s backing) Valerie Caproni.

The suggestion is also interesting given that Fine resigned in 2010 after starting an investigation into the use ofSection 215 and PRTT. It took years before DOJ had a working Inspector General again, resulting in a long delay before Congress got another report on how the government was using the phone dragnet.

All of which is all the more troubling, given that Horowitz revealed that,

Just yesterday, I’m told, in our review of the FBI’s use of the bulk telephony statute, a review that this committee has very much been interested in our doing, we got records with redactions, not for grand jury, Title III, or fair credit information, because those have been dealt with, but for other areas that the FBI has identified legal concerns about.

This is particularly troubling given that just weeks ago the USA Freedom Act mandated certain IG reviews of phone dragnet activities.

But the FBI is still obstructing such efforts.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

8 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    the fbi/doj is still obstructing such efforts

    and will continue to do so so long as president obama permits and encourages them to do so.

    it is a very large, indelible stain on our president’s reputation that his entire tenure has been absorbed with currying the favor and support of the likes of the dept of justice, its junkyard dog, the fbi, the natl security administration, and the execreble central missed-intelligence agency.

    what a reputation.

    • RUKidding says:

      Interesting question. My surmise is: No. ha ha to the NRA.
      *
      They’d better not let any of putative candidates carry guns bc it could end badly, esp with Trump ready to do just about anything to gain more attention.
      *
      As for the audience (will there be one? I have no clue)? Better not or look out!

  2. bloopie2 says:

    According to the transcript, Brady said: “A. I never thought about the inflation level, Lorin. I never in the history of my career, I never thought about the inflation level of a ball.” Someone as smart as he is, having played quarterback for, what, two decades, never thought about that? Give me a break. Due process or not, sufficient evidence or not, different gauges, guilty or not in this case, whatever, the guy is a liar under oath. No credibility left.

  3. wallace says:

    In the immortal words of emptywheel..fuck.

    In the immortal words of Mark Twain..

    “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
    ― Mark Twain

  4. wallace says:

    In the immortal words of Mark Twain..

    “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
    ― Mark Twain

    In the immortal words of emptywheel..fuck.

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