As the Obama administration expands upon its predecessor’s military entanglements in the Middle East, it also continues to preside over Bush’s legacy of expanded domestic surveillance. The renewal of the Patriot Act, supported by Obama’s White House, will soon be taken up in the U.S. Senate. Phil Giraldi offers a refresher on this complex and dangerous legislation.
These periodic renewals of the Act wouldn’t be necessary if FBI Director Robert Mueller had his way — he recently argued before the Senate Judiciary Committee that certain provisions of the Patriot Act should be made permanent, including the authorization of “roving” wiretaps. Mueller also urged for the retention of investigative practice of issuing “national security letters,” an often-abused technique which allows the government to secretly gather information about individuals without judicial oversight.
And abuse of the Patriot Act’s provisions continues—the Electronic Frontier Foundation has uncovered an instance of FBI misconduct related to a roving wiretap obtained under the Patriot Act:
As part of EFF’s FLAG Project, we issued a FOIA request for records of intelligence violations stemming from the FBI’s use of the expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act. In the FBI’s response to our request, we uncovered evidence of multiple reports of potential violations (pdf); however, in typical FBI fashion, the reports are almost entirely redacted. As a result, the details of most of the violations remain secret. Nevertheless, by comparing the FBI’s response to our PATRIOT Act request with the Bureau’s response to another EFF FOIA request, the murky details of at least one potential violation involving PATRIOT provisions became more clear: the FBI, in a case where use of a “John Doe” roving wiretap was authorized, monitored the conversations of “young children” for “approximately” five days.