The FBI violated the law in collecting about 2,000 U.S. telephone records during the Bush administration, though the violations weren't intentional, officials said Tuesday.
Citing internal memos and interviews, the Washington Post said the FBI invoked nonexistent terrorism emergencies or persuaded phone companies to provide information as it illegally gathered records between 2002 and 2006.
The bureau said in 2007 that it had improperly obtained some phone records, and the Justice Department inspector general is expected to release a report later this month detailing the extent of the problem.
FBI spokesman Michael Kortan said Tuesday the pending report "is not expected to find — nor were there — any intentional attempts to obtain records that counterterrorism personnel knew they were not legally entitled to obtain."
The problem centered around requests to phone companies for records of incoming and outgoing calls to a particular number — not the actual content of the conversations.
In seeking the information, the FBI sometimes cited nonexistent emergencies to justify seeking the records, in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
The fact that the violations had occurred was previously known; what had not been understood was the extent and scope of the problem.
Since the issue arose in 2007, the bureau says it has reformed its practices to make sure such violations don't re-occur.
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