DOJ Inspector General Releases Second Report on FBI Misuse of National Security Letters

March 13, 2008. The Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report [187 pages in PDF] titled "A Review of the FBI’s Use of National Security Letters: Assessment of Corrective Actions and Examination of NSL Usage in 2006".

On March 9, 2007, the DOJ's OIG released a report [30 MB in PDF] titled "A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Use of National Security Letters", and a second report [10 MB in PDF] titled "A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Use of Section 215 Order for Business Records". See also, story titled "DOJ IG Releases Reports on Use of NSLs and Section 215 Authority" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,551, March 13, 2007. That report covered the use of NSLs in 2003 through 2005.

The purpose of the just released report is to address the use of NSLs in 2006, and to "describe and assess the response by the FBI and the Department to the serious misuse of NSL authorities that our first report described".

The report finds violations of NSL authority in 2006 similar to the violations reported for 2003-2005 in the 2007 report. However, it should be noted that in 2006 the FBI had not yet received the 2007 report.

The report also concludes that "since issuance of our March 2007 report, the FBI and the Department have made significant progress in implementing the recommendations from that report and in adopting other corrective actions to address serious problems we identified in the use of national security letters. The FBI has also devoted significant energy, time, and resources toward ensuring that its field managers and agents understand the seriousness of the FBI's shortcomings in its use of NSLs and their responsibility for correcting these deficiencies."

However, it adds that "we believe that it is too early to definitively state whether the new systems and controls developed by the FBI and the Department will eliminate fully the problems with the NSLs that we identified."

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC), which oversees the FBI, issued a statement in response.

He wrote, in full, that "Last week, the FBI Director previewed and soft-pedaled the Inspector General’s report on National Security Letters released this morning. It outlines more abuses and what appears to be the improper use of National Security Letters for years in a systemic failure throughout the FBI. In addition to the violations of law we examined last year, this new IG report suggests that the FBI mirrors the rest of the Bush administration in seeking to avoid accountability by providing itself blanket authority. When the Senate returns after the March recess, I intend to follow up with another oversight hearing.  Legislative action may be necessary to correct these abuses. I intend to seek accountability and advertence to the rule of law, which was evaded before 2007.”

John Miller, head of the FBI's Office of Public Affairs, stated in a release that "the FBI has committed significant time and resources and has made significant progress toward correcting the deficiencies identified during last year’s review".