An internal FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails, and financial transactions in recent years, the Washington Post reports. That is far more than was documented in a Justice Department report in March that ignited bipartisan congressional criticism. The new audit covers just 10 percent of FBI national security investigations since 2002, and so the mistakes in the FBI’s domestic surveillance efforts probably number several thousand. The earlier report found 22 violations in a much smaller sampling.
Most the new violations were instances in which telephone companies and Internet providers gave agents phone and e-mail records the agents did not request and were not authorized to collect. The agents retained the information in their files, which mostly concerned suspected terrorist or espionage activities. Two dozen of the newly-discovered violations involved agents’ requests for information that U.S. law did not allow them to have. Officials said the results confirmed what agency supervisors and outside critics feared: that many agents did not understand or follow the required procedures when collecting personal information with one of the most sensitive and powerful intelligence-gathering tools of the post-Sept. 11 era — the National Security Letter, or NSL.