Justice Department Report Reveals FBI Wiretap Mistakes, ACLU Says Disclosure Shows Further Need for Patriot Act Reforms

October 3, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today said that a disclosure that the FBI sometimes wiretaps the wrong number in terrorism investigations only underscores the need to place safeguards in the Patriot Act against abuse. Congressional negotiators are currently working to reconcile differing bills to reauthorize the law.

The error was revealed in a Justice Department inspector general’s report on the FBI’s backlog of wiretaps. It did not disclose how often these mistakes have occurred, or in how many instances they were a problem with so-called “roving wiretaps” as authorized by the Patriot Act. Also, the FBI has not said if the incorrect phone numbers are deleted from FBI files, or if Americans are notified that their conversations were mistakenly intercepted. The wiretap errors were first reported by the Associated Press.

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“The more we find about how the government is using its broad new powers, the more we see need for reform. The FBI has blamed some of these errors on telephone companies, but the Patriot Act and other measures have also increasingly cut out judicial review – an important protection that could help to prevent mistakes like these. Congress must make sure that broad powers meant for suspected terrorists do not violate the privacy of ordinary Americans.

“As the House and Senate reconcile differences in their competing bills, we hope that they will use the Senate bill as their guide. While it is not perfect from a civil liberties standpoint, it takes steps in the right direction to better protect our liberties.”

For more on the ACLU’s concerns with the Patriot Act, go to:

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