The Cyberlaw Clinic is pleased to report that earlier today the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General released its internal audit of the FBI’s use of Section 215 of the Patriot Act from 2007–2009. Release of the Inspector General report comes soon after the Clinic prepared a FOIA request seeking a copy of the report, on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows the government to obtain orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain “tangible things” as part of investigations into foreign intelligence or terrorism. This section has come under intense scrutiny after the revelation by Edward Snowden that the government was using Section 215 to gather records related to every call made on networks operated by Verizon Business Network Services, as well as those of other phone companies. Section 215 is set to expire on June 1, and is currently the subject of vigorous national debate as Congress contemplates whether to reauthorize this surveillance authority.
The report released today is the third addressing the FBI’s use of Section 215, after Congress mandated the DOJ to such periodic reviews under the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005. Earlier reports reviewed the FBI’s use from 2002 through 2005 and for 2006. As the FOIA request prepared by the Clinic notes, this report “will no doubt be one of the most important public documents used in this debate; it is vitally needed to inform the ongoing public debate about whether the provision should be reenacted, and with what amendments.”
Clinic students Naomi Gilens (’16) and Gabrielle Hodgson (’15) worked on this request, along with Clinical Fellow Andy Sellars, Clinical Instructor Vivek Krishnamurthy, and Patrick Toomey, a staff attorney at the ACLU’s National Security Project.