The Washington Post is reporting the Federal Bureau of Investigation invoked non-existent terrorism emergencies to illegally collect more than 2,000 U.S. telephone call records between 2002 and 2006, and issued retroactive approvals to justify its actions.
While the improper phone record collection has been known publicly since 2008, the Post obtained internal Bureau emails that shed light on the behind-the-scenes skirmishing over them.
A Justice Department inspector general report slated for release later this month “is expected to conclude” the FBI frequently broke the law by invoking emergencies, the Post said.
FBI director Robert Mueller did not know about the problem until they came to light in an inspector general investigation that began in mid-2006, according to the Post.
“What this turned out to be was a self-inflicted wound,” FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni told the newspaper. She also acknowledged that the Bureau “technically violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act when agents invoked nonexistent emergencies to collect records,” the Post reported.
According to the Post, among those who raised concerns internally was FBI Special Agent Bassem Youssef, supervisor of the communications analysis unit that dealt with the records. Youssef brought the matter to the attention of his superiors in 2005, after he received complaints from phone companies about the FBI’s failure to provide documentation showing the searches were legal, the newspaper said.
Youssef earlier had “fallen out of favor with FBI management” because he filed a whistleblower claim alleging he had been denied promotion and retaliated against because of his ethnicity, the Post reported.
The documentation sought by the phone companies were so-called national security letters, which were controversial in their own right because they allowed the FBI to obtain records without obtaining a formal court-approved search warrant.
Read the full Post report here. It was written by former Washington Post reporter John Solomon, who recently resigned as top editor of the Washington Times amid major staff cuts and management turmoil, and Washington Post staff writer Carrie Johnson.