The FBI has conducted clandestine surveillance on some U.S. residents for as long as 18 months at a time without proper paperwork or oversight, reports the Washington Post. Records turned over in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit indicate that the FBI has investigated hundreds of potential violations related to its use of secret surveillance operations, which have been stepped up dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. FBI agents kept one unidentified target under surveillance for at least five years — including more than 15 months without notifying Justice Department lawyers after the subject had moved from New York to Detroit. An FBI investigation concluded that the delay violated guidelines and prevented the department “from exercising its responsibility for oversight and approval of an ongoing foreign counterintelligence investigation of a U.S. person.”
In other cases, agents obtained e-mails after a warrant expired, seized bank records without proper authority and conducted an improper “unconsented physical search.” according to the documents. The records were provided to the Post by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group that has sued the Justice Department for records relating to the Patriot Act. David Sobel, EPIC’s general counsel, said the documents raise questions about the extent of possible misconduct in counterintelligence cases and underscore the need for greater congressional oversight of clandestine surveillance. FBI officials said that none of the cases have involved major violations and most amount to administrative errors. The officials also said that any information obtained from improper searches or eavesdropping is quarantined and eventually destroyed.