Friday, August 23, 2002

As Dubya's administration pushes hard for more investigatory power with less accountability, here's a pretty little note: A report from the secret court which was set up to authorize wiretaps for intelligence purposes, saying that even under Clinton, it was routinely and systematically misled by the FBI.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court actually has a reputation, particularly among left-wing critics of government abuse, as being something of a rubber stamp. But apparently, last year, its judges were complaining bitterly that they had been misled by the FBI regarding its investigations of Hamas --- specifically, that officials up to and including Louis Freeh had point-blank lied about whether the proceeds of the intelligence wiretaps were going to be (illegally) used for criminal prosecutions.

The FBI spin on this is, "Well, that was the last administration. You can trust us." (And indeed Ashcroft's crew has backed off from improper prosecution based on intelligence wiretaps --- their style runs more toward indefinite detention without trial). But the FBI is also shucking and jiving that the court's response to their poor judgment regarding the Hamas investigations, and the court's resulting ill humor, "explains" their poor judgment in refusing to even ask the court for a look at the contents of Zac Moussaoui's hard drive before Sept. 11th.

All of which goes to show that the FBI is broken, and needs to be fixed. And that, John Ashcroft to the contrary, accountability in government is not necessarily a bad thing.


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