‘FBI continues to break the law’

The Justice Department’s Inspector General has reported the FBI continues to illegally obtain personal information about Americans.

‘It is too early to tell whether these measures will eliminate fully the problems,’ Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said in his second report in two years on the use of national security letters to obtain personal information.

Fine said the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Justice Department had made significant progress in implemented revised procedures since last year but some measures still are not fully implemented or tested.

The new procedures govern how FBI agents use national security letters, which allow them to obtain telephone, bank, Internet and credit records without first getting a warrant from a judge.

The revised procedures were announced after Fine’s report last year found 48 violations of law or rules in the bureau’s use of national security letters from 2003 to 2005.

Fine said that the number of abuses found and reported by the FBI itself in 2006 “was significantly higher than the number of reported violations in prior years.”

He said the improved self-policing ‘may be explained in large part’ by attention focused on these issues by his earlier audit, which was being conducted during 2006.

The errors included issuing national security letters without proper authorization, improper requests and unauthorized collection of telephone or Internet e-mail records.