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The FBI is guilty of "serious misuse" of the power to secretly obtain private information under the Patriot Act, a government audit said Friday.
The Justice Department's inspector general looked at the FBI's use of national security letters, in which agents demand personal and business information about individuals -- such as financial, phone, and Internet records -- without court orders.
The audit found the letters were issued without proper authority, cited incorrect statutes or obtained information they weren't supposed to.
As many as 22 percent of national security letters were not recorded, the audit said.
"We concluded that many of the problems we identified constituted serious misuse of the FBI's national security letter authorities," Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said in the report.
The audit said there were no indications that the FBI's use of the letters "constituted criminal misconduct."