via Truthout (orig. published in the NYTimes):
At FBI, Frustration Over Limits on an Antiterror Law
By Eric Lichtblau, The New York Times, Sunday 11 December 2005
"While radical militant librarians kick us around, true terrorists benefit from Office of Intelligence Policy and Review's failure to let us use the tools given to us"
Washington - Some agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been frustrated by what they see as the Justice Department's reluctance to let them demand records and to use other far-ranging investigative measures in terrorism cases, newly disclosed e-mail messages and internal documents show.
Publicly, the debate over the law known as the USA Patriot Act has focused on concerns from civil rights advocates that the F.B.I. has gained too much power to use expanded investigative tools to go on what could amount to fishing expeditions.
But the newly disclosed e-mail messages offer a competing view, showing that, privately, some F.B.I. agents have felt hamstrung by their inability to get approval for using new powers under the Patriot Act, which was passed weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
One internal F.B.I. message, sent in October 2003, criticized the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review at the Justice Department, which reviews and approves terrorist warrants, as regularly blocking requests from the F.B.I. to use a section of the antiterrorism law that gave the bureau broader authority to demand records from institutions like banks, Internet providers and libraries.
"While radical militant librarians kick us around, true terrorists benefit from OIPR's failure to let us use the tools given to us," read the e-mail message, which was sent by an unidentified F.B.I. official. "This should be an OIPR priority!!!"
The bureau turned the e-mail messages over to the Electronic Privacy Information Center as part of a lawsuit brought by the group under the Freedom of Information Act, seeking material on the F.B.I.'s use of anti-terrorism powers. The group provided the material to The New York Times.
Congress is expected to vote early next week on a final plan for reauthorizing virtually all main parts of the law, including the F.B.I.'s broader power to demand records. President Bush, who has made renewal of the measure one of his top priorities, pushed again Saturday for Congress to act quickly.
"Since its passage after the attacks of September the 11, 2001, the Patriot Act has proved essential to fighting the war on terror and preventing our enemies from striking America again," Mr. Bush said in his radio address on Saturday.
While some Republicans and Democrats have attacked a brokered agreement reached Thursday because they said it does not go far enough in protecting civil liberties, the president hailed the agreement.
"Now Congress needs to finish the job," he said. "Both the Senate and the House need to hold a prompt vote, and send me a bill renewing the Patriot Act so I can sign it into law."
As part of the lawsuit brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a federal court has ordered the F.B.I. to turn over 1,500 pages of material to the privacy information group every two weeks. [read on...]
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