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FBI in gross violation of privacy rights

  |   April 16, 2008 at 10:24 AM
WASHINGTON, April 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department inspector general said the FBI committed more than 6,000 violations of intelligence laws in its use of national security letters.

National security letters, or NSLs, give the FBI authority to mine personal data from phone conversations, e-mails and financial records without a warrant

Inspector General Glenn Fine told a House Judiciary subcommittee Tuesday a 10 percent review of FBI NSL requests found 640 violations. Fine used that value to give an estimate of 6,400 total violations between 2003 and 2006.

FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni told committee members 90 percent of those errors came from third party or clerical mistakes, ABC News reported Wednesday.

Information gathered from a Freedom of Information Act request found the FBI was excessive in its data collection, mining information for entire e-mail servers rather than focusing on individual suspects. Caproni insisted, however, there was "no violation" of privacy rights.

Committee members examined a proposal by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., calling for an overhaul of FBI use of NSLs to bring the system back "in line with the Constitution.

The FBI opposes the legislation.

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