The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has taught its agents in the past that they can “bend or suspend the law” as they are involved in the wiretapping of suspects. The agency has since said they really didn’t mean it.
They have since removed the instruction from their counterterrorism training curriculum, calling it an “imprecise” instruction. One has to wonder just why it was that they removed the material. Was it because they were caught teaching such things?
Many national security attorneys have said it is a good thing because it is a very serious thing to claim that they can twist the law in order to go after suspects is just wrong. I agree it is.
However, the larger picture is the fact that such statement even made it into a curriculum in training agents is disturbing. Once you have trained agents with this material, it becomes rather difficult to remove from their mindset, especially when those in charge promoted such criminal activity. Yes, it is criminal activity.
The response from the FBI is unsatisfactory as well. For them to pull the curriculum and claim it is simply an “imprecise” instruction is far from the truth. The fact is: It was completely wrong and illegal instruction. Someone should lose their job over such curriculum being implemented in the first place.
“Dismissing this statement as ‘imprecise’ is a rather unsatisfying response given the very precise lines Congress and the courts have repeatedly drawn between what is and is not permissible, even in counterterrorism cases, over the past decade,” Steve Vladeck, a national-security law professor at American University, says. “It might technically be true that the FBI has certain authorities when conducting counterterrorism investigations that the Constitution otherwise forbids, but that’s good only so far as it goes.”
When first contacted the FBI was unwilling to release the documents in question. However, the finally did release the document but failed to provide information as to who prepared the document; how long it was in circulation; and how many FBI agents, analysts and officials received its instruction.
Robert Chesney, a national-security expert at the University of Texas’ law school, said, “This certainly does not read as if a lawyer wrote it. Congress has given the FBI the authority to wiretap, collect business records, and gather other forms of information for intelligence purposes, subject to certain safeguards. It is a severe misstatement to refer to the exercise of these lawful authorities as ‘bending’ or ‘suspending’ the law; that mischaracterization runs the risk of both delegitimizing these lawful tools and, simultaneously, conveying to agents the mistaken impression that there might be some more general power to disobey the law during intelligence investigations.”
Though there was a six-month review of improper counterterrorism training by the Senate Judiciary Committee, there were absolutely no FBI officials that received disciplinary action.
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