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FBI Releases Secret Subpoena Information 282

Posted by Zonk
from the not-looking-good-there dept.
gollum123 writes to mention a CNN article, reporting on an FBI information release. The number of secret subpoenas the Bureau filed last year reached 3,501. These documents allowed access to credit card records, bank statements, telephone records, and internet access logs for thousands of legal citizens without asking for a court's permission. From the article: "The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the same panel that signs off on applications for business records warrants, also approved 2,072 special warrants last year for secret wiretaps and searches of suspected terrorists and spies. The record number is more than twice as many as were issued in 2000, the last full year before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001."
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FBI Releases Secret Subpoena Information

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  • This is insane. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oirtemed (849229) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @03:43PM (#15229283)
    And yet I'd say 75% don't know enough to care about it and 60% wouldn't care if they did. I made up those numbers but you get the idea.
  • not very... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by joe 155 (937621) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @03:44PM (#15229287) Journal
    secret Subpoena are they? Still, I am amazed that this information was ever released, I don't know how the US legal system works but in England the Government an stop the release of any information (even under the Freedom of information act) which might affect "national security", it seems strange to me that the US adiminstration has actually let this stuff get out. I also wonder how many of the people were bona fide terrorists...
    • England has no constitution and no bill of rights (except, arguably, the 800-year-old Magna Carta). The United States does, despite efforts by the current administration to marginalize them.
      • Re:The difference... (Score:3, Informative)

        by joe 155 (937621)
        not to be pedantic... but: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Bill_of_Right s_of_1689 [wikipedia.org]
        • Re:The difference... (Score:3, Informative)

          by zippthorne (748122)
          The difference is the wording, and the force of the document. What you've presented appears to have the force of law, but as such is always going to be subject to the whim of parliament.

          In the US, the constitution is ostensibly the final word. It is higher than mere law. It is the contract by which law can be made. It specificaly enumerates the powers the government may have, lists serveral rights which must never be infringed, and finally limites the government to powers explicitly mentioned. The US b
          • Re:The difference... (Score:3, Informative)

            by ozric99 (162412)
            In the US, the constitution is ostensibly the final word. It is higher than mere law.

            This is the same "final word" that has been changed 27 times over the course of its life? 27 times in 219 years - I make that one change every 8 years*. Yeah, that's some set-in-stone document to end all documents.

            Before some crazy gets heavy with the mod-stick, understand I'm not knocking the constitution, just those people who hold it up as some kind of divine law. Karma be damned.

            *yes, I know ten of those were e

            • The Constitution IS the final word in the US Legal system. It is superior to all other laws created by any legislative body anywhere in the country.

              Nowhere in those statements or concepts does it claim it is either 1) perfect or 2) permanent.
            • Yes, the Constitution can be amended. If the US government believes that some power is denied to them that should be newly allowed due to a change in technology and/or the world situation, they are free to attempt to amend the Constitution to make their actions legal. Of course, that would be an admission that it was unconstitutional in the first place. And, well, amending the Constitution was made purposely difficult. Of course, even if the secret subpeonas or whatever we are talking about is legal does no
        • The link you provided pretty much agrees with me: The Bill of Rights 1689 is largely not a statement of certain positive rights that citizens and/or residents of a free and democratic society have (or ought to have). Instead it sets out (or in the view of its writers, restates) certain constitutional requirements where the actions of the Crown require the consent of the governed as represented in Parliament. In this respect, it differs from other "bills of rights," including the United States Bill of Rights
      • That's bullshit. Like any EU member Britain is signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights [wikipedia.org]. This treaty established the appropriately named European Court of Human Rights which has very real powers in all EU countries.

        Especially in the case of Britain, this court serves as the highest appeals court for many cases involving civil rights issues. It has, for instance, outlawed interrogation techniques [wikipedia.org] that look strangely familiar... This probably has to do with the much less politicized and more i

    • Well, at least historicly, the US has a very strong tradition of information release from the government. It often takes time, the information needs to be no longer sensitive, but after it's not, the public has access. Many would contend we are moving away from that these days, but that's how it's been in the past. I mean you'll hear about a case with sealed warrants and so on, but after the case is all settled, it's all opened up and made public record.

      The idea is that secrets are supposed to be secret onl
    • You have to remember, the US Government is completely bogged down with cronyism and the GWB personality cult. Much like the totalitarian states of the 30s and 40s, they have no real idea what's going on -- they're too busy admiring their "grand works", and patting each other on the back.
    • The contents of the National Security Letters are still classified. The release of the statistics about the NSLs is required by law -- this was an intentional release.

      The NSLs operate in the area between criminal investigations and intelligence gathering and have been going on for a long time, well before the Patriot Act. And, there are a lot of applications where these are perfectly reasonable. I don't think most US Citizens would mind, for example, if we bugged the private residence of the Iranian U.N.
      • Yes, but it must be noted that prior to the PATRIOT act, the NSL was applied under very limited circumstances. Thanks to this wonderful new law, it's practically open season. This means that there could easily be a lot of ordinary legal situations that may now be "secretized" by virtue of the fact that a national security letter was involved. It's one of many newfound "tools" just begging for abuse.
    • No, not very secret.
      without asking for a court's permission. From the article: "The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,
      And they asked for a court's permission without asking for a court's permission?
    • >I also wonder how many of the people were bona fide terrorists...

      More particularly, how many were the kind of mass-casualty terrorists who rise to the level of being a national security problem?

      It only took twenty hijackers, plus some amount of logistics, finance and support, to commit the New York atrocity in 2001. There have been lots of arrests since then, but a paucity of convictions, so we haven't added much data.

      Suppose all 3501 of the FBI information requests were for info on actual terrorists. T
  • At least such subpoenas are theoretically legitimate. It's kind of sad that while normally one would be concerned over whether or not this level of secret activity is justified, these days this seems pretty same since at least they're actually going through a legal process at all.
    • They had a process for putting Jews in camps as well. :-)

      Just thought I'd let you know that.

      Tom
      • And we had a process for putting Japanese in camps [wikipedia.org]. Yet, somehow, nobody seems to remember that it can happen here too.

        A wise man once said "All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing." We would do well to remember that.
    • It's kind of sad that while normally one would be concerned over whether or not this level of secret activity is justified

      Sad?

      Consider that, if you strolled around Rome in the time of Marcus Aurelius, (when Russel Crowe was doin' his thang) and posed the question: "Was Rome better under the Republic, or the Empire?", you'd get a lot of confused expressions. Why?

      There was no overt break between the eras. They still had a Senate, Tribunes, and all. The circuses, in fact, were better.

      Bureaucracy corrupts, a

  • by Clockwurk (577966) * on Saturday April 29, 2006 @03:47PM (#15229298) Homepage
    George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace. Barring a cataclysmic event on the order of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, after which the public might rally around the White House once again, there seems to be little the administration can do to avoid being ranked on the lowest tier of U.S. presidents. And that may be the best-case scenario. Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history.

    From time to time, after hours, I kick back with my colleagues at Princeton to argue idly about which president really was the worst of them all. For years, these perennial debates have largely focused on the same handful of chief executives whom national polls of historians, from across the ideological and political spectrum, routinely cite as the bottom of the presidential barrel. Was the lousiest James Buchanan, who, confronted with Southern secession in 1860, dithered to a degree that, as his most recent biographer has said, probably amounted to disloyalty -- and who handed to his successor, Abraham Lincoln, a nation already torn asunder? Was it Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson, who actively sided with former Confederates and undermined Reconstruction? What about the amiably incompetent Warren G. Harding, whose administration was fabulously corrupt? Or, though he has his defenders, Herbert Hoover, who tried some reforms but remained imprisoned in his own outmoded individualist ethic and collapsed under the weight of the stock-market crash of 1929 and the Depression's onset? The younger historians always put in a word for Richard M. Nixon, the only American president forced to resign from office.

    Now, though, George W. Bush is in serious contention for the title of worst ever. In early 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a "failure." Among those who called Bush a success, many gave the president high marks only for his ability to mobilize public support and get Congress to go along with what one historian called the administration's "pursuit of disastrous policies." In fact, roughly one in ten of those who called Bush a success was being facetious, rating him only as the best president since Bill Clinton -- a category in which Bush is the only contestant.

    The lopsided decision of historians should give everyone pause. Contrary to popular stereotypes, historians are generally a cautious bunch. We assess the past from widely divergent points of view and are deeply concerned about being viewed as fair and accurate by our colleagues. When we make historical judgments, we are acting not as voters or even pundits, but as scholars who must evaluate all the evidence, good, bad or indifferent. Separate surveys, conducted by those perceived as conservatives as well as liberals, show remarkable unanimity about who the best and worst presidents have been.

    Historians do tend, as a group, to be far more liberal than the citizenry as a whole -- a fact the president's admirers have seized on to dismiss the poll results as transparently biased. One pro-Bush historian said the survey revealed more about "the current crop of history professors" than about Bush or about Bush's eventual standing. But if historians were simply motivated by a strong collective liberal bias, they might be expected to call Bush the worst president since his father, or Ronald Reagan, or Nixon. Instead, more than half of those polled -- and nearly three-fourths of those who gave Bush a negative rating -- reached back before Nixon to find a president they considered as miserable as Bush. The presidents most commonly linked with Bush included Hoover, Andrew Johnson and Buchanan. Twelve percent of the historians polled -- nearly as many as those who rated Bush a success -- flatly called Bush the worst president in American history. And these figures were gathered before the debacles over Hurricane Katrina, B
  • Wow! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wellington Grey (942717) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @03:48PM (#15229303) Homepage Journal
    The number of secret subpoenas the Bureau filed last year reached 3,501.

    Wow! I bet they have a lot of terrorists to show for all that work. Right...?

    ::crickets chirping::

    -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]
    • Re:Wow! (Score:3, Informative)

      by cold fjord (826450)
      Wow! I bet they have a lot of terrorists to show for all that work. Right...?

      You mean like these recent convictions, arrests, or indictments? Hamid Hayat [sacbee.com], Abu Ali [washingtontimes.com], and Sayed Ahmed [11alive.com], Shahawar Matin Siraj, [foxnews.com] Ehsanul Islam Sadequee [forbes.com], and these 19 [fbi.gov]?

      Maybe your memory is fading, or you don't pay attention, but there have been plenty of others over the last few years.
  • I wonder (Score:2, Funny)

    by eclectro (227083)

    Do they secretly subpoena slashdot posts? Maybe it's the Feds that keep modding me down...
  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @04:13PM (#15229402) Homepage
    Last year, when trying to kill time in DC (I'm from Ohio), I decided to head out to a bar. I noticed a bachaelorette party going into a particular bar and decided that's wehre I'd spend my evening (seemed like an easy decision). I handed over my credit card and opened a tab.

    I kept trying to get the attention of some of those girls, but none of them so much as returned my glances. So I struck up a conversation with the friendly guy next to me.

    Turns out the girls were ignoring me because it was a gay bar!

    Now, if someone looks through my credit card history, they're going to think I'm into men.

    So all I can say is, these secret warrants suck! And if you're FBI and monitoring my internet use and credit card history--I'm not gay! Really! I just hope your software is good enough to corelate this post with that Visa log.
    • by EllisDees (268037) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @05:10PM (#15229573)
      >Now, if someone looks through my credit card history, they're going to think I'm into men.

      Not that there's anything wrong with it... :)
    • Why would they be interested in your sexual preferences? And if they are, why would the police look in any other way at you. If that is the case, there is much more to worry about.

      Replace the sexual preference by race, religion or political preference and try not to get trapped into Godwins law.
      • Suppose I hold a public office? Or work in a school?

        That's serious blackmail material.
        • The problem is then that it should not be something he could be blackmailed about. Here in Belgium there are openly gay people who are teachers and who are politicians. The king of Belgium has a child from outside his marriage. Nobody really cares.

          The problem thus is not the fact that people can collect this data, but that this data can be used against you. Replace your secual behaviour with race, religion or political preferences. Suddenly it sounds a lot scarier.
      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @05:43PM (#15229681) Journal
        It could affect his chance at getting security clearance if he files his sexual orientation as heterosexual. I don't know about the US, but in the UK, you can get security clearance if you are gay and admit it, but if you claim not to be and their background check indicates that you are then it can be denied. This has nothing at all to do with prejudice or discrimination, it comes down to the simple fact that if there is anything in your private life that you could be blackmailed about then you are a potential security risk.

        Having said that, I suspect that visiting a single gay bar probably would not flag him as a closet homosexual. After all, who hasn't been to the odd gay bar or two? If he visited the same gay bar every week or two though, then that might raise some red flags (assuming that the NSA has a database of all drinking establishments with a 'sexual orientation of majority of patrons' field. If they do, then they could probably make a fair amount selling it in guidebook form...)

    • One time while going to a concert in Detroit, myself and a group of friends decided to stop at a bar downtown before hand. Things seemed kind of different in there for a moment, and when we looked around we started to notice some guys talking to each other and a few rainbows posted around the place. Since none of us are gay, it was fun laughing about how none of us noticed the type of place we were going into.
      • Close call (Score:5, Funny)

        by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @06:58PM (#15229906) Journal
        That's how most men become homosexuals. They accidentally go into a gay bar, and the next thing they know, they're sucked into the homosexual lifestyle.

        we started to notice . . . a few rainbows posted around the place

        I'm sure you know by now to only go into bars that have a leather motif if you want to avoid gay bars.
    • He's just big-boned.
  • by The Famous Druid (89404) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @04:20PM (#15229420)
    These figures don't count George Bush's "we don't need no steenkin' paperwork" illegal wiretaps.

  • NOT.

    So much for that whole limited government thing.

    Instead of Clinton using the FBI to investigate his political enemies, we now have the FBI investigating 3000 people without court approval or even accountability (until they're pressured).

    Exactly how does this qualify as 'limited Government' again?
    • Exactly how does this qualify as 'limited Government' again?

      Dude, get with the times. Limited government was killed in 1933 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Every president since FDR has expanded federal power (even Reagan, although he stemmed much of the tide). The only presidents that I can think of in the 20th century who did believe in limited government were Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

      There is no such thing as limited government anymore, sadly.

    • Without court approval?

      What is it about the words "The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court" that you don't understand?
    • The truly scary thing is that this does not include the FBI's CARNIVORE program, the NSA's
      ECHELON program, the NSA's widespread illegal domestic evesdropping program, the DoD's
      domestic terrorist infiltration program (including peace activists and political opponents), or
      the DoD's MATRIX program.

      Who in the hell is watching the watchers?
      Whatever happened to Congressional oversight?
      Who in the bloody hell annointed GW Bush King George?
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @04:48PM (#15229496) Homepage
    One of many problems with secret searches is understanding what we're getting in exchange? Are we really any safer? Cheney likes to point to the fact that we haven't been attacked since 9-11 as proof the administration is effective, conveniently overlooking that it was almost ten years between attacks on the trade center when we didn't do much of anything. It proves nothing.

    Judging by the war in Iraq, bungled response to Katrina, the military wholesale spying on US citizens, the Justice Dept. all but admitting AT&T is helping them monitor communications in America, bankrupting the budget and the endless lies how are we supposed to trust that the government is doing the right thing? Just because Gonzales says this conduct is constitutional doesn't make it so.

    I think it's pretty safe to assume this expansion of police powers does not make us any safer. It's a waste of resources, it's intrusive, and further undermines the pitiful remnants of our civil rights. Another failed policy from a failed administration. If it wasn't so dangerous and being wielded by corrupt, incompetent people it would be laughable.

    • by Karhgath (312043)
      About what Chenney is saying... this reminds me of the Simpsons.

      Homer: Well, there's not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol is sure doing its job.
      Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
      Homer: Thank you, sweetie.
      Lisa: Dad, what if I were to tell you that this rock keeps away tigers.
      Homer: Uh-huh, and how does it work?
      Lisa: It doesn't work. It's just a stupid rock.
      Homer: I see.
      Lisa: But you don't see any tigers around, do you?
      Homer: (Looks around) Lisa, I'd like to buy your rock.
  • by schwit1 (797399)
    I suspect 50 years from now historians will mark the fall of the Soviet Union as also the beginning of the the end for the US.

    They causes will be blatant corruption and incompetence of the federal government, elections processes that clearly favor those with money, the federal power grab of all decision making, the lack of decision making on important issues, the transition to a surveillance culture, the ability of big business and other special interests to buy legislation, the rube goldberg tax system, t

    • the federal power grab of all decision making, the lack of decision making on important issues

      So... the federal power grab of all unimportant decisions? Or maybe, the power grab of all decision making, they just don't do anything important with it.

      I hear what you're saying, just that's the way it sounds.

  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @05:08PM (#15229567) Homepage Journal
    is the fact that we are actually seeing this info. I am not a big fan of this administration or the tactics it is using but I do have faith in the foundations of our federal government and the infallibility of karma.

    Expecting the neo-con mod down in 3..2..1....

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