Hey, mind if we tap that phone?

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Ryan Singel reports that despite the rather lax standards required for wiretaps, some FBI agents seem to have decided that they could skip procedure:
The revelation is the second this year showing that FBI employees bypassed court order requirements for phone records. In July, the FBI and the Justice Department Inspector General revealed the existence of a joint investigation into an FBI counter-terrorism office, after an audit found that the Communications Analysis Unit sent more than 700 fake emergency letters to phone companies seeking call records. An Inspector General spokeswoman declined to provide the status of that investigation, citing agency policy.

The June 2006 e-mail (.pdf) was buried in more than 600-pages of FBI documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The message was sent to an employee in the FBI's Operational Technology Division by a technical surveillance specialist at the FBI's Minneapolis field office -- both names were redacted from the documents. The e-mail describes widespread attempts to bypass court order requirements for cellphone data in the Minneapolis office.

Remarkably, when the technical agent began refusing to cooperate, other agents began calling telephone carriers directly, posing as the technical agent to get customer cellphone records.

Federal law prohibits phone companies from revealing customer information unless given a court order, or in the case of an emergency involving physical danger.

The actual document is here.


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