ACLU says NSA Uses the FBI to Employ Strong Arm Tactics

By on September 18, 2013

by Bridget Aladro

With all the hype surrounding the National Security Agency the American Civil Liberties Union wants to make sure we don’t forget that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is the brawn behind the brains. In a 63 page report, that will be released September 18th, the ACLU makes its case that the powers of the FBI have expanded exponentially since September 11, 2001 and the bureau has been transformed into a “secret domestic intelligence agency.”

The ACLU also claims that the NSA’s power is due to the government agency’s big brother, the FBI, who secretly demands participation from tech companies in the NSA investigations. “The [ACLU has] long warned that turning the FBI into a domestic intelligence agency by providing it with enhanced surveillance and investigative authorities that could be secretly used against Americans posed grave risks to our constitutional rights,” the report reads. “This is what a domestic intelligence enterprise looks like in our modern technological age.”

In a blog post introducing the report, ACLU’s Matthew Harwood wrote “The critical role of one agency deeply involved in this scandal has not been fully examined…even though it requested the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] Court order compelling companies to participate in the NSA’s bulk phone records collection program. That agency is the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” The report is entitled “Unleashed and Unaccountable: The FBI’s Unchecked Abuse of Authority” and it compiles examples of how the agency has expanded their authority with the changes of laws and policies since 9/11.

It is just one of the facets of the ACLU’s new “Mapping the FBI” initiative, which “seeks to expose misconduct, abuse of authority, and unconstitutional profiling and other violations of American’s rights and liberties across the country.” In the first half of the report, the ACLU shows that the passage of the Patriot Act and FISA amendments made in 2008 granted the FBI unchecked control in order to prevent terrorism. The second half of the report is where things start to get spicy. The last pages of the report claim “that these powers have led to widespread abuse, both domestically and internationally, without public accountability. Since 9/11 the ACLU has uncovered and documented persistent evidence of FBI abuse, including warrantless wiretapping, racial and religious profiling, biased counterterrorism training materials, politically motivated investigations, abusive detention and interrogation practices, and misuse of the No-Fly List to recruit informants.”

The list of offenses is long. Also in the report: since 2009 the FBI has opened 82,000 investigations, without reasonable suspicion, and only finding information that justified an investigation in 3,500 cases; the FBI secretly demands data targeting American citizens from phone and internet companies using National Security Letters, the agency sent out 140,000 of them from 2003-2005; the FBI racially profiles communities to focus its surveillance, this includes Chinese and Russian Communities in San Francisco, Latinos in New Jersey and Alabama, African Americans in Georgia and Middle Eastern communities in Detroit; The FBI is exempt from the Whistleblower Protection Act and Congress has been allowing the agency to intimidate internal whistleblowers. The ACLU also makes it clear that despite the FBI’s growing surveillance programs “it remains incompetent at its core crime fighting job” citing the FBI’s own data reporting that more than half of 1.2 million violent crimes in 2011 went unsolved.

The report is the ACLU’s plea to Congress, the president and the attorney general to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the FBI’s policies and programs, and makes 15 recommendations for reform of the agency. “The list of abuses is long and demonstrates that Congress must do a top-to-bottom review of FBI politics and practices to identify and curtail any activities that are unconstitutional or easily misused,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “The time for wholesale reform has come.”

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