The FBI Lied To Obtain Secret Search Warrants

The Washington Post is reporting today that the FBI lied to a secret tribunal of Federal Judges authorized to issue search warrants in national security cases:

FBI agents repeatedly provided inaccurate information to win secret court approval of surveillance warrants in terrorism and espionage cases, prompting officials to tighten controls on the way the bureau uses that powerful anti-terrorism tool, according to Justice Department and FBI officials.

The errors were pervasive enough that the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, wrote the Justice Department in December 2005 to complain. She raised the possibility of requiring counterterrorism agents to swear in her courtroom that the information they were providing was accurate, a procedure that could have slowed such investigations drastically.

A internal FBI review in early 2006 of some of the more than 2,000 surveillance warrants the bureau obtains each year confirmed that dozens of inaccuracies had been provided to the court. The errors ranged from innocuous lapses, such as the wrong description of family relationships, to more serious problems, such as citing information from informants who were no longer active, officials said.

This revelation follows the news two weeks ago that the FBI was not following the law in the issuance of so-called “national security” letters. And, more importantly, it’s evidence that the surveillence society is something that cannot be contained. Once given the power to access information for one purpose, law enforcement will inevitably find a way to use it for another purpose, even if they have to lie to do it.