FBI Abuse of “National Security Letters” — New Revelations
by Tom Burghardt / April 19, 2008
When biochemist Magdy Mahmoud Mustafa el-Nashar was released from custody in Cairo in 2005, no one could have be more relieved than the vacationing former student and his family.
Falsely accused by British authorities for alleged links to the July 7, 2005 London transport bombings that killed 52 and maimed 700, el-Nashar was taken into custody in Egypt because he had casually known two of the suicide bombers. He had met them while obtaining a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Leeds. When freed, el-Nashar told the International Herald Tribune,
The reason for suspecting me was because I specialize in chemistry. I am completely innocent,” he said, adding that he planned legal action against British media that he said had defamed him. He did not identify the media.1
Released unharmed by Egypt’s notoriously torture-prone Interior Ministry police, el-Nashar lived to tell the tale. But unbeknownst to the former North Carolina State University student there was a disturbing backstory to his arrest.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released a damning report Tuesday documenting the FBI’s abuse of the process for obtaining a National Security Letter (NSL) in connection with its probe of el-Nashar.
Incredibly, the Bureau delayed its own investigation in North Carolina “by forcing a field agent to return documents acquired from a U.S. university,” Ryan Singel reports.
Why? Because the agent received the documents through a lawful subpoena, while headquarters wanted him to demand the records under the USA Patriot Act, using a power the FBI did not have, but desperately wanted.
When a North Carolina State University lawyer correctly rejected the second records demand, the FBI obtained another subpoena. Two weeks later, the delay was cited by FBI director Robert Mueller in congressional testimony as proof that the USA Patriot Act needed to be expanded.2
The investigation into a suspected accomplice to mass murder was sidetracked because FBI bureaucrats sought additional powers they “desperately wanted,” in order to escape judicial oversight and expand their brief to shower the public with flimsy National Security Letters. During 2004-2005 for example, the Bureau issued some 100,000 NSLs, often on no more than a hunch.
Read all of it here, with notes. / Dissident Voice / The Rag Blog