Dec. 14, 2005 – Amid the Federal Bureau of Investigation documents recently released under public information requests is a memo mentioning changes in Justice Department policy that permit the FBI to ignore the office specifically tasked with providing oversight and advice to Department agencies. The memo mentions the changes only in passing and does not discuss when they were implemented or at whose direction.
- Court Sides with Privacy Rights Group over Patriot Act FOIA (Nov 18, 2005)
Exposed yesterday by the Electronic Privacy Rights Information Center, a nonprofit privacy rights advocate, the internal FBI Office of General Counsel memo discusses Bureau policies and activities related to "roving wiretaps" and other Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) tools expanded under the USA Patriot Act. It also notes that the Patriot Actâ€™s easing of restrictions on surveillance "has benefited the FBIâ€™s mission in generalâ€¦ as it has made considering and/or obtaining FISAs more possible under appropriate circumstances."
Heavily redacted, stamped "Secret" and under the heading "New Standard for Business Records for FISA," the last line of the General Counsel memo reads: "â€¦notes the process would appear to be greatly improved based on recent changes allowing FBIHQ/OGC [FBI Head Quarters/Office of General Counsel] to bypass OIPR [Office of Intelligence Policy and Review], but the benefits have not been fully realized yet."
In a press conference called to oppose the Patriot Act reauthorization and discuss the newly obtained information, EPIC questioned how much the public really knows about Justice Department changes allowed under the Act.
"Congress should not reauthorize the Patriot Act until these questions are resolved," EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg said.
The FBI released the FISA document along with internal e-mails and other records obtained under court order stemming from a Freedom of Information Act request filed by EPIC last year. Last month, US District Court Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the FBI to release the requested information in a more timely fashion.