FBI Cites More Than 100 Possible Eavesdropping Violations


By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 9, 2006; Page A09

The FBI reported more than 100 possible violations to an intelligence oversight board over the past two years, including cases in which agents tapped the wrong telephone, intercepted the wrong e-mails or continued to listen to conversations after a warrant had expired, according to a report issued yesterday.

In one case, the FBI obtained the contents of 181 telephone calls rather than just the billing records to which it was entitled. In another, a communication was monitored for more than a year after eavesdropping should have ended -- although investigators blamed a third-party provider for the mix-up.

The findings were part of a semiannual report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine on problems related to the USA Patriot Act, the broad anti-terrorism law that is scheduled to be renewed today with President Bush's signature.

The report confirmed that Fine's office is investigating a broad range of issues related to the government's anti-terrorism efforts. They include investigations of the FBI's role at military detention facilities in Iraq, in Cuba and elsewhere; the bureau's use of National Security Letters; and the FBI's treatment of antiwar protesters.

Fine also reported that the Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the Justice Department's use of material-witness warrants to detain suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The same office is examining the role of Justice lawyers in reviewing the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said Fine's report "is yet another vindication for those of us who have raised concerns about the administration's policies in the war on terror."

"Despite the Bush administration's attempt to demonize critics of its anti-terrorism policies as advancing phantom or trivial concerns, the report demonstrates that the independent Office of Inspector General has found that many of these policies indeed warrant full investigations," Conyers said.

But Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the department is "pleased that the inspector general once again confirmed that there have been no substantiated civil liberties violations from the Patriot Act."

Echoing previous reviews, Fine said that most of the hundreds of Patriot Act-related complaints received in the last six months of 2005 did not warrant further investigation and that only four full investigations were opened during that time. Two of the probes were pending and two others were referred to the Bureau of Prisons for further investigation, the report said.

In the cases of intelligence violations at the FBI, the report said the bureau had forwarded 108 possible errors in 2004-2005 to the Intelligence Oversight Board, a secret panel at the White House that reviews such reports.

The FBI said in a statement that no willful misconduct was found and that "when possible violations are discovered, the FBI acts quickly to correct the error."

Yesterday's report also provided new details about disciplinary action taken against corrections officers accused of mistreating post-Sept. 11 detainees at a federal prison in Brooklyn, N.Y. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has fired two officers, suspended six and demoted three, the report said.