Scrutiny intensified after tactical missteps

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The Justice Department, in a report, said the agents made an “error in judgment” when they questioned Mr. Jewell under the training-film pretext, and Mr. Freeh recommended that three agents involved be censured.

On April 13, 2005, Mr. Jewell was exonerated when Eric Rudolph pleaded guilty to carrying out the bombing at the Centennial Olympic Park as well as three other attacks across the South.

Mr. Jewell, who suffered from diabetes, heart and kidney disease, died on Aug. 29, 2007. He was 44.

Improper authority

In March, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General said in a report that senior FBI counterterrorism officials had improperly issued blanket national security letters for 3,860 telephone numbers to cover up the fact that they already had improperly obtained the information.

Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said those who had prepared the letters relied on outdated data and now-prohibited procedures, but they were approved by an assistant director, a deputy assistant director, two acting deputy assistant directors and a special agent in charge.

Mr. Fine said the letters, a form of an administrative subpoena demanding data or information on a person without probable cause or judicial oversight, included pre-USA Patriot Act language now prohibited under law.

He also said none of the letters complied with internal FBI policy requiring the preparation and approval of memorandums establishing the existence of an open investigation and the relevance of the numbers and the information being sought.

Notice of the improper letters was listed without emphasis starting on Page 129 of the IG’s 163-page report. None of the FBI officials who approved them was identified. But the report described the finding as “troubling,” noting that the FBI had disregarded a secret court’s constitutional objections and obtained private records for national security probes, including telephone records or credit-card data.

“We questioned the appropriateness of the FBI’s actions” in disregarding the court, the IG’s office said.

Generally, the report said the FBI’s use of national security letters to obtain personal information on U.S. citizens in terrorism and espionage investigations rose in 2006 after Justice Department auditors found violations of law or rules in the bureau’s use of the letters during the previous three years.

The report also identified a case in which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court twice refused to authorize a warrant based on concerns that the investigative target was protected by the First Amendment. It said the FBI got the information it sought by using a national security letter without further review.

In responding to the IG’s report, Mr. Mueller called the abuses “unacceptable” and ordered corrective measures. He called he report “fair and objective,” saying the bureau sought to exercise its authority “consistent with the privacy protections and civil liberties that we are sworn to uphold.”

Mr. Mueller said that though the report found no intentional misuse of authority, it identified several areas of inadequate auditing and oversight as well as inappropriate processes.

Questionable lab work

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