As we go through this brief
extension in three of the more controversial provisions of the Patriot Act, which give law enforcement tremendous leeway in spying on people with very little oversight, there have been some hearings about those provisions. At a recent Senate Judiciary Hearing about this, FBI director Robert Mueller was asked if any of the three provisions had been found to be abused. Mueller responded, "I'm not aware of any." However, as the EFF notes, it has clear evidence of the roving wiretap being abused
, which it found via some FOIA documents. Tellingly, when it requested info about Patriot Act violations, it received heavily redacted info. However, via a different FOIA request, it received other information that, when combined with the first FOIA request, reveals a clear abuse by the FBI. Separately, the EFF points out that (former) Senator Russ Feingold indicated at a hearing in 2009
that he had seen confidential evidence of abuse:
"I recall during the debate in 2005 that proponents of Section 215 argued that these authorities had never been misused. They cannot make that statement now. They have been misused. I cannot elaborate here. But I recommend that my colleagues seek more information in a classified setting."
On top of that, they point to a 2007 report
(pdf) from the Office of the Inspector General at the Justice Dept, which notes two cases of the FBI abusing those 215 orders.
This raises some pretty serious questions. Is Director Mueller simply uninformed about his agency abusing these provisions? Or was he lying to Congress about those abuses? Neither case looks good, and neither suggests that we should renew those provisions.