Jack Cafferty weighs in on the Inspector General's report that outlines how the FBI was abusing the Patriot Act and severely underreporting the number of National Security Letters issued.
"This is the kind of stuff that happens when the war on terror is used as an excuse to circumvent our civil liberties, which has become the hallmark of the Bush administration."
Why I Hate Sean Hannity Reason # 593: Hannity to Cheney: Should We Even Debate the Patriot Act and NSA Wiretapping?
Glenn Greenwald has much more: The FBI's lawbreaking is tied directly to President Bush
(Transcript below the fold)
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nice to see you, Suzanne.
This may come as a surprise to those of you watching, or maybe it won't, the FBI properly and sometimes illegally used the Patriot Act to get personal information about people in the United States. This is the kind of stuff that happens when the war on terror is used as an excuse to circumvent our civil liberties, which has become the hallmark of the Bush administration.
The Justice Department's inspector general was looking at the FBI's use of something called national security letters. Agents use these to get personal and business information about people from third parties without court orders.
The audit found that for three years, the FBI under reported to Congress how often it used these national security letters, under reported by about 22 percent.
It said in many cases, the FBI was trying to get information it "could have obtained properly" by following other presumably legal guidelines.
The report blames agent error and shoddy reporting for the problems.
The FBI's director, Robert Mueller, calls the audit report excellent and said he's to blame for not fixing the problems earlier. Members of Congress want hearings now and some say they want to consider reigning in parts of the Patriot Act, something that is an absolutely wonderful idea that is way, way overdue.
So here's the question this hour -- does it surprise you that the FBI misused the Patriot Act in order to get personal information about Americans?
E-mail your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.
I wonder what they know about you -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Oh, well, let's keep that to ourselves, Jack.
Who do you think is responsible for all of this?
Because everybody seems to be saying well, I take part blame.
Who do you blame?
CAFFERTY: Well, there's a climate in Washington, beginning with the passage of the Patriot Act and the NSA spying and the trolling through bank records and the trolling through opening people's mail and all of the other things that have gone on under the guise of the war on terror and keeping us safe that have created, I think, a climate where this kind of thing is -- is sort of, you know, it's a wink and a nod and you do it the most expedient way possible, whether it's legal or not, because there's been no oversight of any of this stuff for the last six years.
And so people have learned that there's no accountability. They don't have to worry about it. And, you know, they to pretty much whatever they want to do. It's -- it's -- it's horrible. But I think there's, you know, there's a climate that exists in Washington -- or at least has -- that's allowed this kind of stuff to take root and grow.
MALVEAUX: Well, hopefully our records are still private, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Well, let's hope. Especially the stuff about you and me.
MALVEAUX: Oh my goodness, don't start any rumors. No rumors. No rumors.
CAFFERTY: All right.