10 Most Shocking Things the FBI Has Done Since 9/11
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The FBI is exempt from the Whistleblower Protection Act. Though the law required it to establish internal mechanisms to protect whistleblowers, it has a long history of retaliating against them. As a result, a 2009 IG report found that 28 percent of non-supervisory FBI employees and 22 percent of FBI supervisors at the GS-14 and GS-15 levels "never" reported misconduct they have seen or heard about on the job. The FBI has also aggressively investigated whistleblowers from other agencies, leading to an unprecedented increase in Espionage Act prosecutions under the Obama administration, almost invariably targeting critics of government policies.
The FBI's overzealous pursuit of government whistleblowers has resulted in the inappropriate targeting of journalists for investigation, potentially chilling press freedoms. Recently, the FBI obtained records from 21 telephone lines used by over 100 Associated Press journalists, including the AP's main number in the U.S. House of Representatives' press gallery. And an FBI search warrant affidavitclaimed Fox News reporter James Rosen aided, abetted, or co-conspired in criminal activity because of his news gathering activities, in an apparent attempt to circumvent legal restrictions designed to protect journalists. In 2010, the IG reported that the FBI unlawfully used an " exigent letter" to obtain the telephone records of seven New York Times and Washington Post reporters and researchers during a media leak investigation.
The FBI has thwarted congressional oversight by withholding information, limiting or delayingresponses to members' inquiries, or worse, by providing false or misleading information to Congress and the American public. Examples include false information regarding FBI investigations of domestic advocacy groups, misleading information about the FBI's awareness of detainee abuse, and deceptive responses to questions about government surveillance authorities.
Several ACLU Freedom of Information Act requests have uncovered significant evidence that the FBI has used its expanded authorities to target individuals and organizations because of their participation in First Amendment-protected activities. A 2010 IG report confirmed the FBI conducted inappropriate investigations of domestic advocacy groups engaged in environmental and anti-war activism, and falsified public responses to hide this fact. Other FBI documents showed FBI exploitation of community outreach programs to secretly collect information about law-abiding citizens, including a mosque outreach program specifically targeting American Muslims. Many of these abuses are likely a result of flawed FBI training materials and intelligence products that expressed anti-Muslim sentiments and falsely identified religious practices or other First Amendment activities as indicators of terrorism.
The FBI increasingly operates outside the U.S., where its authorities are less clear and its activities much more difficult to monitor. Several troubling cases indicate that during the Bush administration the FBI requested, facilitated, and/or exploited the arrests and detention of U.S. citizens by foreign governments, often without charges, so they could be interrogated, sometimes tortured, then interviewed by FBI agents. The ACLU represents two victims of such activities. Amir Meshal was arrested at the Kenya border by a joint U.S., Kenyan, and Ethiopian task force in 2007, subjected to more than four months of detention, and transferred between three different East African countries without charge, access to counsel, or presentment before a judicial officer, all at the behest of the U.S. government. FBI agents interrogated Meshal more than thirty times during his detention. Similarly, Naji Hamdan, a Lebanese-American businessman, sat for interviews with the FBI several times before moving from Los Angeles to the United Arab Emirates in 2006. In 2008, he was arrested by U.A.E. security forces and held incommunicado for nearly three months, beaten, and tortured. At one point an American participated in his interrogation; Hamdan believed this person to be an FBI agent based on the interrogator's knowledge of previous FBI interviews. Another case in 2010, involving an American teenager jailed in Kuwait, may indicate this activity has continued into the Obama administration.