FBI’s Use of Patriot Act to Secretly Obtain Americans’ Business Records Increased by 1,000% Under Obama
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Under President Barack Obama, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has dramatically increased its use of a controversial provision of the Patriot Act (pdf) to pry into the business records of U.S. citizens.
The probing involves Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which permits the FBI to obtain business records and other “tangible things”—including “books, records, papers, documents and other items,” as part of a terrorism or foreign intelligence investigation.
In 2009, the FBI reported to Congress that it had used Section 215 only 21 times to access business records.
That total had soared by last year to 212 requests—a 1,000% increase.
Experts say this indicates a broadening interpretation of the provision on the part of government, so that it is being applied not only to targeted individuals but to Americans who have no apparent ties to terrorist activity.
Robert Chesney, a top national security lawyer at the University of Texas Law School, said he was surprised to learn how much the use of Section 215 had gone up over the last four years.