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Section 215 FISA Requests Up 1,000% Since 2009

From NBC News:

FBI sharply increases use of Patriot Act provision to collect US citizens’ records

By Michael Isikoff | June 11, 2013

The FBI has dramatically increased its use of a controversial provision of the Patriot Act to secretly obtain a vast store of business records of U.S. citizens under President Barack Obama, according to recent Justice Department reports to Congress. The bureau filed 212 requests for such data to a national security court last year – a 1,000-percent increase from the number of such requests four years earlier, the reports show…

Always bear in mind that the FBI is run by Eric Holder. And that all of the expansion of monitoring done by NSA was also done under orders from Eric Holder.

The Patriot Act provision, known as Section 215, allows the FBI to require the production of business records and any other “tangible things” — including “books, records, papers, documents and other items,” for an authorized terrorism or foreign intelligence investigation…

The 215 section of the Patriot Act is sometimes referred to as the ‘library records’ provision. It allows the Director of the FBI (or an official designated by the Director, so long as that official’s rank is no lower than Assistant Special Agent in Charge) to apply for an order to produce materials that could assist in investigations of international terrorism or foreign intelligence activities.

But in the years since [the law's enactment in 2001], the FBI’s use of Section 215 quietly exploded, with virtually no public notice or debate. In 2009, as part of an annual report to Congress, the Justice Department reported there had been 21 applications for business records to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) under Section 215 – all of which were granted, though nine were modified by the court. (The reports do not explain how or why the orders were modified.)

In 2010, the number of requests jumped to 205 (all again granted, with 176 modified.) In the latest report filed on April 30, the department reported there had been 212 such requests in 2012 – all approved by the court, but 200 of them modified.

These sharp increase in the use of Section 215 has drawn little attention until now because the number of national security letters (NSLs) issued by the bureau has been so much greater — 15,229 in 2012.

In other words, ‘215 requests’ skyrocketed from 21 in 2009 to over 15,000 in 2012. All under Obama.

But FBI Director Mueller, in little-noticed written responses to Congress two years ago, explained that the bureau was encountering resistance from telecommunications companies in turning over “electronic communication transaction” records in response to national security letters.

“Beginning in late 2009, certain electronic communications service providers no longer honored NSLs to obtain” records because of what their lawyers cited as “an ambiguity” in the law. (What Mueller didn’t say was this came at a time when all the major telecommunications companies were still facing lawsuits over their cooperation with the government on surveillance programs.) As a result, Mueller said, the FBI had switched over to demanding the same data under Section 215. “This change accounts for a significant increase in the volume of business records requests,” Mueller wrote.

What was not explained at the time, Chesney notes, is that the FBI was using the Section 215 requests to obtain a broad array of records. For example, a top-secret FISC order disclosed last week by the Guardian showed that the FBI had used a single Section 215 request to direct Verizon  to turn over “all call detail records or telephony metadata’’ of its customers for a three month period, literally millions of records…

Which indicates that the FBI is abusing this provision by requesting a far wider and far larger range of material than was ever envisioned by the Patriot Act. That is, the FBI is not using these all of these requests for records just help them in specific investigations of specific terrorist plots.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Wednesday, June 12th, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Section 215 FISA Requests Up 1,000% Since 2009”

  1. Petronius

    Since the regime already has all of our financial data, employment information, and business records, why do they require us to file income tax returns? Why not just grab our money and be done with it?

    One reason, perhaps, is to entrap us into making reporting errors –– errors which they can then use against us. Our tax return becomes a form of self-incrimination.

    The other reason would be the sheer joy they experience in inflicting this onerous and unnecessary reporting burden on tens of millions of individuals and companies. It is one way they celebrate their power over us.




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