Tuesday, March 27, 2007

FBI Chief Blames Computers for Privacy Flap

Declan McCullagh writes on C|Net News:

FBI Director Robert Mueller on Tuesday said secret "national security letters" are invaluable in unearthing telephone and e-mail logs and blamed computer snafus for deceiving Congress about how often the technique is used.

In an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mueller attempted to downplay widespread concerns about the FBI's illegal use of the letters, which came to light in an inspector general's report earlier this month. The report found that the FBI underreported the number of national security letters and concluded there was "serious misuse" of the surveillance power.

The FBI once used 3x5 index cards to track use of the letters but then switched to a more modern database operated by the bureau's general counsel. But that database has never been linked to the FBI's home-brewed "Automated Case Support," a famously archaic system with IBM terminals as a front-end that has been the subject of a series of devastating internal critiques.

More here.


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