Privacy Law

FBI has become a 'secret domestic intelligence agency,' ACLU report says

FBI powers have increased so much over the past 12 years that the bureau has become a “secret domestic intelligence agency,” according to a report to be released on Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Changes in law and policy since the Sept. 11 attacks have “unleashed the FBI from its traditional restraints and opened the door to abuse,” the report says. The Washington Post has an advance story and the ACLU has a preview here.

Among the changes outlined in the report: National Security Letters allow collection of account information from telecommunications companies, financial institutions and credit agencies without judicial approval. The government tracks all U.S. telephone calls under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the FBI to issue orders to produce “tangible things” related to terrorism investigations, without a warrant and without notice to the persons targeted, according to this ACLU summary.

The report calls for a comprehensive evaluation of FBI policies. “The time for wholesale reform has come,” says Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, in an interview with the Post.

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