The FBI, already taking flak for the abuse of national security letters used to spy on Americans, admitted to The Washington Post today that its agents “repeatedly provided inaccurate information to win secret court approval of surveillance warrants in terrorism and espionage cases.”
Warrants issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allow for physical and electronic surveillance and are some of the most secretive and loosely vetted investigative tools available to federal law enforcement. But time and time again the FBI supplied the court with bad data to obtain warrants, according to the Post and an internal bureau audit last year. FBI agents even used information from deactivated informants. The errors were bad enough that FISC’s chief judge complained to the Justice Department.
The FBI has chalked its mishaps up mostly to sloppiness and lack of internal oversight. But the extent to which the FBI has violated civil liberties and run roughshod over the law — thousands of cases over several years — suggests the bureau’s problems go beyond mere incompetence.