Washington, D.C. March 10, 2008. Today the Department of Justice Inspector General’s office has released yet another report confirming that the highest ranking FBI counterterrorism officials violated the Patriot Act when authorizing warrantless searches of over 3000 phone numbers through the use of National Security Letters (“NSL”). These Letters, authorized under the Patriot Act, permit FBI managers to sign search warrants without judicial notification or approval.
Buried on pages 129-30 of today’s report, the Inspector General found:
“More troubling, 11 blanket NSL’s issued by [FBI] Headquarters
officials in 2006 that sought telephone data on 3,860 telephone numbers
did not comply with the Patriot Reauthorization Act requirements
respecting these provisions, internal FBI policy, or both. We are
concerned by the failure of senior Counterterrorism Division officials
to comply with statutory requirements and internal policy regarding the
issuance of NSL’s and their failure to consult legal counsel.”
The officials who signed the National Security Letters include the two
highest ranking FBI counterterrorism managers, the current Assistant
Director for Counterterrorism and Executive Assistant Director for
Stephen M. Kohn, the President of the National Whistleblowers Center, issued the following statements:
“The FBI continues to make grave errors within its counterterrorism
program. These mistakes threaten both individual civil liberties and
national security. It is unacceptable that over six years after the
9/11 attacks the FBI still does not understand basic rules governing
counterterrorism operations. The FBI and Department of Justice have
refused to listen to internal whistleblowers who have documented
numerous problems within the counterterrorism program which threaten
the safety of every American. Although the Inspector General has again
documented problems with the abuses of the NSLs, they have refused to
order changes in basic FBI policies which caused the NSL violations.”
Mr. Kohn represents Bassem Youssef, the highest ranking Arab American
FBI agent employed within the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division.
According to a report issued by the Department of Justice Office of
Professional Responsibility, the FBI illegally retaliated against Mr.
Youssef after he reported deficiencies in the counterterrorism program
to Congress and the Director of the FBI. On January 12, 2008, Mr.
Youssef addressed a convention of the American Library Association and
explained how the lack of subject matter expertise within the FBI was
the root cause of the FBI’s NSL fiasco.