The FBI improperly obtained personal information on Americans in many terrorism investigations in 2006, but new internal practices appear to have helped curtail the problems, said Bush administration officials quoted by the New York Times. The Justice Department inspector general is expected to issue a report soon that updates its findings last year into FBI use of “national security letters,” which allow investigators to obtain telephone, e-mail and financial information on people involved in investigations without a court warrant.
Last year's report caused an uproar when it was disclosed that the FBI, under powers granted by the USA Patriot Act, had misused its authority to gather records in thousands of instances from 2003 to 2005. The new report from the inspector general will examine the bureau's use of the records demands in 2006. FBI director Robert Mueller, speaking to the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the report “will identify issues similar to those in the report issued last March.” The inspector general's report is expected to find that the FBI has made “significant progress” in handling the problem, but that it is still too early to determine the results. To critics, the efforts have not been enough. “The new guidelines are no different than the old guidelines,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent who works on national security issues for the American Civil Liberties Union.