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FBI domestic spying lacked authorization: Some U.S. residents were watched for months
Washington -- The FBI has conducted clandestine surveillance on some U.S. residents for months at a time without proper paperwork or oversight, according to previously classified documents to be released today.
Records turned over as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit also indicate the FBI has investigated hundreds of potential violations related to its use of secret surveillance operations, which have been stepped up dramatically in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but are largely hidden from public view.
In one case, FBI agents kept an unidentified target under surveillance for at least five years -- including more than 15 months without notifying Justice Department lawyers after the subject had moved from New York to Detroit. An FBI investigation concluded the delay was a violation of Justice guidelines and prevented the department "from exercising its responsibility for oversight and approval of an ongoing foreign counterintelligence investigation of a U.S. person."
In other cases, agents obtained e-mails after a warrant expired, seized bank records without proper authority and conducted an improper "unconsented physical search," according to the documents.
Although heavily censored, the documents provide a rare glimpse into the world of domestic spying, which is governed by a secret court and overseen by a presidential board that does not publicize its deliberations. The records also emerge as the House and Senate battle over whether to put new restrictions on the controversial USA Patriot Act, which made it easier for the government to conduct secret searches and surveillance but has come under attack from civil-liberties groups.