A study released yesterday documents the use of nonexistent emergencies by the FBI to improperly obtain telephone toll information. Between 2002 and 2006, it is reported that more than 700 such demands for information were made.
Part of the issue with such violations appears to be connected to the fact that the FBI and employees for three telecommunications companies actually shared office space. With the sharing of this office space, many of these telecommunications employees were seen as serving as members of the FBI.
Such emergency letters stopped being used in 2006 after some of these issues were discovered. Still, some see this as proof that the Patriot Act requires changes. The Patriot Act, set to expire next month, authorizes the FBI to send letters to phone companies and banks requesting information. However, with evidence of these improprieties, some are uncertain about whether such procedures as they currently exist are proper.
Over the past several years, issues of privacy have risen to the forefront of public concern. With the institution of the Patriot Act, many of these fears were heightened even further. With reports such as this one released Friday, many of these fears are now being justified causing many to further worry about how private their lives really are.
Unfortunately, this is not a unique case of improper privacy intrusions by the U.S. government. The government justifies their practices with the even greater fear of terrorism; they claim that their procedures are in place to weed out potential acts of terrorism. Such safety requires some intrusions, but these intrusions seem to be growing and becoming more egregious as time passes.
With this instance, it is perhaps even more troublesome as the FBI actually had procedures in place that they willfully violated. According to the article, these violations occurred at several levels of the FBI, not just the lowest level. Granted, these violations have apparently now been reigned in, but the fact they happened in the first place is worrisome.
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