By Richard B. Schmitt
The Los Angeles Times
Saturday 10 March 2007
Irate lawmakers threaten to rein in the bureau
after reports of improperly obtained bank and phone data.
Washington - Angry lawmakers on Friday threatened to amend the USA Patriot Act and limit the FBI's powers in the wake of a disclosure that agents had improperly obtained confidential records of people in the United States.
A scathing report issued Friday by the inspector general of the Justice Department found widespread problems in how the FBI has used a form of administrative subpoena - known as a national security letter - to gather phone, bank and credit information on thousands of citizens without court oversight.
The problems included the issuing of letters that circumvented Justice Department rules and regulations; in addition, the report found a record-keeping system in such disarray that annual reports to Congress substantially understated the number of subpoenas the FBI was issuing.
The inspector general also disclosed that the bureau had an unusual contract with three phone companies to provide call records and subscriber information without legal process.