The FBI can produce no example of a major victory against terrorism thanks to the increased snooping powers granted by the Patriot Act, the Justice Department’s inspector general said in a report Thursday.
“The agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders,” Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said though agents did view the material they gathered as “valuable” in developing other leads or corroborating information.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which is scheduled to expire at the end of this month, allows government agents to force businesses to turn over records and documents, and scoop up records of Americans who have no ties to terrorism investigations.
The House, in an overwhelming bipartisan vote, passed a bill to renew it but also to limit it so the government could no longer do bulk collection such as the NSA phone data program.
FBI Director James B. Comey asked Congress this week to make sure Section 215 and two other parts of the Patriot Act, are preserved. Those other powers include the ability to target lone wolf actors and to switch wiretaps if suspects switch their phones.
At the very least, Comey said, the power to go after individuals’ records should be preserved , stating Wednesday before the reports release, “If we lose that authority, which I don’t think is controversial with folks, that is a big problem.”
The report, while heavily redacted, adds critical precedent, privacy advocates say, that Section 215 is effectually useless.
“This report adds to the mounting evidence that Section 215 has done little to protect Americans and should be put to rest,” ACLU Staff Attorney Alex Abdo said.
In the report, the entire chart showing the number of Section 215 requests made from 2007 through 2009 was blacked out, as was the breakdown of what types of investigations they stemmed from: counterintelligence, counterterrorism, cyber or foreign intelligence investigations.
Horowitz says however, that the number of requests processed during that time increased 300 percent.
“Bulk data collection creates false leads, ties up investigative resources and, essentially, undermines national security,” an attorney at Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, LLP and advocate for government whistleblowers, Stephen Kohn said .
“Also, increased FBI dependency on that bulk data collection indicates that the agency is lacking the appropriate resources for conducting successful counterterrorism operations,” Kohn added.