Now it looks like the FBI knew all along that it was abusing National Security Letters

Tuesday, March 20, 2007 at 04:48 PM

As if the DOJ audit report on the mess the FBI has made of National Security Letters wasn't bad enough, now the FBI official in charge of the bureau's Communications Analysis Unit says he discovered the frequent legal lapses and reported his concerns over them to his superiors in early 2005.

According to the NY Times story,:

Almost two years before the Federal Bureau of Investigation publicly admitted this month that it had ignored its own rules when demanding telephone and financial records about private citizens, a top official in that program warned the bureau about widespread lapses, his lawyer said on Sunday.

The official, Bassem Youssef, who is in charge of the bureau's Communications Analysis Unit, said he discovered frequent legal lapses and raised concerns with superiors soon after he was assigned to the unit in early 2005.

Stephen M. Kohn, the lawyer for Mr. Youssef, said his client told his superiors that the bureau had frequently failed to document an urgent national security need -- proving "exigent circumstances," in the bureau's language -- when obtaining personal information without a court order through the use of "national security letters."

Mr. Youssef said his superiors had initially minimized the scope of the problem and the likely violation of laws intended to protect privacy, Mr. Kohn said.

"He identified the problems in 2005, shortly after he became unit chief," Mr. Kohn said. "As in other matters, he was met with apathy and resistance."

Mr. Youssef's criticisms were first reported on Sunday by The Washington Post, which also cited internal e-mail messages in which Justice Department officials had discussed the legal lapses surrounding national security letters.

Mr. Youssef, born in Egypt, is suing the bureau for discrimination, charging that senior officials improperly suspected his loyalties in part because of his Egyptian origins. ....

If these claims turn out to be true, it will continue the long, long line of incompetence to which the FBI can now lay claim, going back to the agency's total bungling of its own agents' reports that might well have stopped the hijackings of one or more planes on 9/11.

I think that in this country today, bureaucracy can reasonably be viewed as being at least as likely as terrorism to harm you.