"We are pleased with the Office of Inspector General's (OIG) report that demonstrates that the Department of Justice, including the FBI, have been responsible in using the authority granted by Congress to obtain business records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. We are also pleased that the OIG found it unnecessary to make any recommendations for changes to Justice Department or FBI procedures and practices for use of this authority.
"Section 215 is an important tool that provides the FBI and the Justice Department with the authority to seek approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (or FISA Court) to compel the production of business records and other tangible things if the items relate to an authorized ongoing national security investigation -- which, in the case of a U.S. person, cannot be based solely upon activities protected by the First Amendment. Consistent with the findings of the OIG, the Justice Department believes that the initial delays in using this investigative tool, though unfortunate, have largely been resolved and that no harm to national security or adverse impacts resulted from those delays.
"In reviewing all the Section 215 orders issued in the years 2002 through 2005, the OIG found only two instances of “improper use” of this authority, a characterization that the Justice Department believes is not apt. The OIG noted that in both cases, the errors were “inadvertent,” resulting in the FBI mistakenly receiving information not authorized by the terms of the relevant FISA Court order. The OIG found that, in each instance, the FBI identified the error on its own; sequestered or destroyed the collected data; and promptly reported the mistake to the President's Intelligence Oversight Board, as required, and to the Court. These examples demonstrate that the oversight process is working as it should to identify and address inadvertent mistakes when they occur.
"It is also noteworthy that the OIG found that the FBI did not obtain Section 215 orders for any library records during the years 2002 through 2005. The Justice Department appreciates the diligent work of the OIG in completing this review and looks forward to working with the OIG on the review of Section 215 orders issued in 2006. The Justice Department continually strives to improve its use of these specialized investigative tools."