Why Is The Attorney General Making Claims About PATRIOT Act That Her Own Agency's Report Says Are Not True?

from the total-failure dept

We already posted about the new DOJ Inspector General report analyzing the FBI’s use of the PATRIOT Act’s Section 215 “business records” collection. Among the various things in the unredacted sections of the report is yet another claim (following on many similar statements) that the Section 215 program has never been shown to actually be that useful:

That wasn’t all that interesting on its own, given how many times others (including many with the security clearance and access to know) have made the same point. But what’s incredibly troubling is that the very same day that this report came out, Attorney General Loretta Lynch was making the rounds claiming the exact opposite.

Meanwhile, today Attorney General Loretta Lynch weighed in on the debate in Congress, claiming the exact opposite. She was quoted by CBS News as saying that if Patriot Act Section 215 expires: ?[W]e lose important tools. I think that we lose the ability to intercept these communications, which have proven very important in cases that we have built in the past.? (emphasis mine)

So to sum up: the Justice Department?s own Inspector General said information collected under Section 215 did not lead to “any major case developments,? but the Attorney General said that Section 215 has ?proven very important in cases that we have built.? Both statements cannot be true.

And, remember, the Attorney General is the head of the Justice Department. It certainly sounds like she’s either woefully uninformed or outright lying. She is new at the job, but not so new that she wouldn’t know these basic facts.

And, in some ways it gets even worse. As Patrick Eddington points out, Lynch appears to be directly calling for the continuation of a program that the 2nd Circuit appeals court just declared illegal. Doesn’t that raise some fairly important questions, when you have the Attorney General — the person officially in charge of enforcing our laws insisting that we need to continue an illegal program?

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Comments on “Why Is The Attorney General Making Claims About PATRIOT Act That Her Own Agency's Report Says Are Not True?”

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David says:

No contradiction here.

As with our previous reviews, the agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders, but told us that the material produced pursuant to Section 215 orders was valuable in that it was used to support other investigative requests, develop investigative leads, and corroborate other information.

Now they are not saying that the agents said there were no major case developments (and developing an investigative lead most certainly is a major case development as it makes the difference between a case being there or not), but that they did not identify any major cases.

And since they pretty much spell out that those cases were pursued using parallel construction (also known as “evidence laundering”), identifying such cases would likely lead to them being appealed and thrown out of court.

So yes, Lynch is entirely correct that ending Section 215 is going to remove one layer of pretense that the Department of Justice uses for cloaking its illegal operations internally.

Ending Section 215 will not really make a difference regarding what they are telling in court cases: they already use parallel construction here. However, it will make the Department of Justice more likely to be subject to criminal investigations by oversight committees and controlling courts (obviously not by the Department of Justice itself). So they have more of a risk of getting interference with those parts of their operation relying on organized criminality.

Which would be a serious setback for most government branches of the executive these days.

Ambrellite (profile) says:

Lying, or telling a different truth?

Does parallel construction make it possible for both the IG’s statement and Lynch’s to be true? I.e., the program is ostensibly useless, but secretly (and illegally) being used to prosecute many cases where such evidence would ordinarily be thrown out.

And if this illegal program is so relied upon, how atrophied are the traditional investigatory tools that *aren’t* being used?

tqk (profile) says:

Which war are they fighting? The same one?

the Justice Department’s own Inspector General said information collected under Section 215 did not lead to “any major case developments,” but the Attorney General said that Section 215 has “proven very important in cases that we have built.” Both statements cannot be true.

If the IG’s definition of “major case developments” is the same as ours (ie. stopping a terrorist attack before it happens), and the AG believes that putting a few drug dealers in jail are “very important cases”, there’s your truth. Following the money leads to the Drug War, not to Islamic Extremism.

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