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Intelligence Oversight Board: FOIA Documents Detailing Legal Violations

As the result of a 2009 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request, EPIC forced disclosure of documents detailing unlawful uses of National Security Letters by law enforcement agents. FBI agents routinely sought documents they had no authority to procure, extended intelligence gathering activities well beyond the expiration of the agency's time-bounded authority to collect information, and failed to comply with legal protections. Additional details are highlighted in the individual documents linked below.

Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) Background

The Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) is a standing committee of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board, responsible for reviewing activities of the intelligence community. President Ford created the IOB by Executive Order 11905 in order to "to establish effective oversight to assure compliance with law in the management and direction of intelligence agencies and departments of the national government." The White House designed the new measures in response to Congressional investigations that uncovered substantial abuses by intelligence agencies. In 1993, President Clinton amended the program to require inspectors general and counsel throughout the intelligence community to report to the IOB "intelligence activities that they have reason to believe may be unlawful or contrary to Executive Order or Presidential Directive" at least every three months.

EPIC's Freedom of Information Act Request

In 2005, EPIC requested documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) concerning the Bureau's use of PATRIOT Act powers. In response to EPIC's FOIA, the agency disclosed reports sent from the FBI to the IOB. These reports referenced potential legal violations. EPIC's analysis of these documents revealed at least 42 cases from 2000-2005 in which the FBI's Office of the General Counsel investigated alleged FBI misconduct during intelligence activities and found these matters serious enough to report them to the IOB.

On July 2, 2009, EPIC filed a follow-up FOIA seeking all reports made by the FBI to the IOB and the Director of National Intelligence from January 1, 2006 to present detailing potential legal violations arising out of intelligence gathering activities. EPIC's letter requested:

  • Any information concerning the FBI's use of authorities granted or expanded by Sections 206 and 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act from January 1, 2006 to the present.
  • Any communications to the Intelligence Oversight Board pursuant to E.O. 13462 regarding incidents constituting a potential legal violation made from January 1, 2006 to present.
  • Any communications to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence pursuant to E.O. 13426 regarding incidents constituting a potential legal violation from January 1, 2006 to present.
  • Any information or communications concerning the 2009 sunset of USA Patriot ACT provisions.
EPIC forced disclosure of 1,494 pages of internal reports, laying out the FBI's systematic failure to comply with legal protections, often at the cost of innocent third parties' privacy rights. Selected documents are available in PDF form below.

Intelligence Oversight Board: Legal Violations

According to the agency records obtained by EPIC, the FBI used NSLs to:

Other unlawful uses of NSLs included:
  • compounding overreaching requests, and third parties' overproduction of data, by uploading and processing materials that the agency had no authority to access.
  • delaying any formal record of such abuses, often for a full year or longer. The Intelligence Oversight Board concluded that such failures to report "substantially impaired" the Board's ability to provide meaningful oversight.

Resources

EPIC's National Security Letters Page