WASHINGTON, June 15 (UPI) -- The chairman of a key U.S. congressional subcommittee said Friday he was furious over reports of FBI abuses of electronic surveillance guidelines.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the House of Representatives, said he felt outrage over reports that an internal FBI audit had indicated agents may have broken the law or the agency's own internal rules more than 1,000 times while misusing the National Security Letter authority under the Patriot Act.
Nadler, who is also co-chair of the bipartisan Patriot Act Reform Caucus, said, "Today's reports only heighten the clear need for fixes to the NSL authority. The Justice Department's Inspector General previously found wide-spread abuses of the FBI's authority to issue NSLs -- we now know that the problems go much further than initially disclosed."
"From the beginning, I have said that unchecked power would lead to rampant abuse. It's clear, yet again, that reforms are needed," Nadler said. "These abuses by the DOJ and FBI have proven that legislative fixes are necessary. In the coming weeks, I plan on holding continued oversight hearings on the NSL authority as part of a series of hearing entitled, 'The Constitution in Crisis: The State of Civil Liberties in America.' I will also work with my colleagues to consider and craft legislation that would place adequate checks on the FBI's investigatory power."
"The new FBI guidelines regarding the use of NSLs fall far short of protecting the privacy of innocent Americans," the New York congressman said.
Nadler's comments reflected the tensions that still exist between the Democrats who control both houses of Congress and the Bush administration on domestic surveillance and human rights issues.
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