By Brad Friedman on 4/14/2010, 2:38pm PT  

House Judiciary Chair Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has just issued a statement [posted in full below] calling on the FBI to fire those who broke the law by issuing improper letters from the FBI in order to receive access to thousands of Americans' phone records from 2003 through 2006 under the guise of "national security."

"I call upon FBI Director Mueller to take immediate action to punish those who violated the rules," Conyers says in the statement, "including firing them from the agency."

"Today's hearing showed that the FBI broke the law on telephone records privacy and the General Counsel's Office, headed by Valerie Caproni, sanctioned it and must face consequences," said Conyers. "In some cases agents sent letters with information known to be false."

His statement even quotes the former Republican chair of the Committee, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), sharing the sentiment:

'I'm extremely disappointed that every time Congress has tried to plug potential civil rights and civil liberties violations in our counterterrorism activities, the FBI seems to have figured out a way to get around it.

In a related matter, late last month a federal judge found the Bush Administration's warrantless domestic wiretapping program to be illegal. So this would be the second time in several weeks where the former administration was found to have violated the law and the U.S. Constitution in order to spy inappropriately and illegally on American citizens.

Will those Tea Baggers who claim to believe in the Constitution and the Rule of Law join the call for accountability yet? (Careful: It's a trick question, Tea Baggers, since the accountability would include members of the Bush Administration, and we realize your calls for "accountability" only go so far. On the other hand, if it's okay for Bush to have done it, we'll presume you don't mind if Obama spies on you either.)

Conyers' complete statement, issued late this afternoon, follows below...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Conyers: FBI Broke the Law and General Counsel's Office, Headed by Valerie Caproni, Sanctioned It and Must Face Consequences

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement after the Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing on the Report by the Office of Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Justice on the FBI's Use of Exigent Letters and Other Informal Requests for Telephone Records.

"Today's hearing showed that the FBI broke the law on telephone records privacy and the General Counsel's Office, headed by Valerie Caproni, sanctioned it and must face consequences," said Conyers. "I call upon FBI Director Mueller to take immediate action to punish those who violated the rules, including firing them from the agency. This must include the FBI Office of General Counsel, headed by Valerie Caproni, which the IG testified today had 'approved [the] continued use' of exigent letters and 'provided legal advice that was inconsistent with' federal law.

"Between 2003 and 2006, the FBI improperly obtained personal telephone record information from U.S. telephone companies for more than 5,500 phone numbers, including private details protected by federal law. The IG found that, during this period, much of this information was obtained through the use of so-called 'exigent letters', which do not exist in the Patriot Act and have no statutory basis whatsoever. In some cases agents sent letters with information known to be false.

"The FBI must fulfill its obligations to protect the rights as well as the security of all Americans. I share the concerns of my colleague, the former Republican Chairman of the Committee James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who today said,

'I'm extremely disappointed that every time Congress has tried to plug potential civil rights and civil liberties violations in our counterterrorism activities, the FBI seems to have figured out a way to get around it.'

###