Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

FBI wants more subpoena power

Filed under
Security

FBI Director Robert Mueller said Wednesday that Congress should give the agency the power to issue its own subpoenas, instead of having to get approval for them from a court, so that it can collect information more quickly in terrorism investigations.

Mueller said North Carolina State University initially rebuffed FBI investigators this month when they sought enrollment records for a former graduate student suspected of being linked to the London bombings because the investigators did not have a subpoena.

Although the FBI eventually obtained subpoenas and the records, Mueller used the episode to argue to the Senate Judiciary Committee that the bureau needs the new subpoena power.

"We should've been able to have a document, an administrative subpoena, that we took to the university and got those records immediately," Mueller told the committee.

Lawmakers are trying to determine whether to include FBI subpoena power for gathering anti-terror intelligence in a package of amendments to the USA Patriot Act.

Mueller said he objects to any oversight of an FBI subpoena outside of the bureau.

But Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she is leery of giving the FBI anti-terror subpoena power without some Justice Department supervision. The FBI already has the authority to issue administrative subpoenas in certain kinds of cases.

Feinstein said an agent seeking to issue a subpoena should be required to justify the need for it to an assistant U.S. attorney because of the possibility that the FBI would amass information about innocent people.

"The resistance to this makes me suspicious," she said.

At North Carolina State, the FBI sought records for Magdy el-Nashar, an Egyptian who attended the university in 2000 and was believed to have rented a house in Leeds, England, near where four bombs used in the July 7 attacks in London are thought to have been made. The attacks killed 56 people.

El-Nashar, who is wanted for questioning by British authorities, has been detained in Egypt. Officials there have said he has no links to the bombings.

In a statement, the university said that under federal privacy laws, it could not turn over records without a subpoena. In all, North Carolina State eventually was served with three subpoenas pertaining to el-Nashar, the statement said.

Mueller's visit to Capitol Hill coincided with the release of a report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine that found continued shortcomings in FBI efforts to translate a backlog of foreign-language material, including information related to counterterrorism.

The report found that the FBI now has 8,354 hours of tape recordings involving counterterrorism topics waiting to be reviewed, up from 4,086 hours a year ago. But Fine found that the bureau is up-to-date in translating material deemed "highest priority," a category that includes information relating to Al Qaeda terrorism cases.

On another sore subject for the agency, Mueller said the FBI has made "substantial progress" in upgrading its much maligned technology systems. He said the bureau has bought more powerful computers and built a new secure network.

A contractor for a new case management system, code-named Sentinel, is expected to be selected by the end of the year, he said. Sentinel is slated to be implemented in four stages over 40 months, ending in 2009.

An earlier attempt at a case management systemwas scrapped after three years and an expenditure of $170 million.

By Andrew Zajac
Washington Bureau

More in Tux Machines

How I welcomed an immigrant family with a Linux laptop

From the LibriVox website, I downloaded the free, public domain audio reading of Helen Keller’s amazing autobiography, The Story of My Life, which is an excellent book that was first published in 1903. Then, I downloaded the text of the book (it's in the public domain) from Project Gutenberg and imported the text into Calibre, the free ebook reading software. Using my favorite Linux screencasting software, SimpleScreenRecorder, I married the text (in a large font) to the audio recording. I created the first 11 chapters of the book as video files in this way, and uploaded them to YouTube. I also copied these onto the Dell Inspiron 9400, so these video files could be viewed offline. Read more

Linux Practicality vs Activism

One of the greatest things about running Linux is the freedom it provides. Where the division among the Linux community appears is in how we value this freedom. For some, the freedom enjoyed by using Linux is the freedom from vendor lock-in or high software costs. Most would call this a practical consideration. Others users would tell you the freedom they enjoy is software freedom. This means embracing Linux distributions that support the Free Software Movement, avoiding proprietary software completely and all things related. Read more

What is the Fedora Modularity project and how do you get involved ?

The Fedora Modularity Project is an effort to fix several problems that all distributions face. One of them is the disconnect between Fedora's release cycle and the release cycle of larger Fedora components like for example GNOME, KDE or even the kernel. Those components obviously don't have the same lifecycle that Fedora follows and Fedora can't always wait for major components to be released upstream and on the other hand doesn't want to ship outdated software. An earlier attempt to work around this disconnect were the Fedora Rings with a central core 'base design', a concentric ring #2 around it for 'environments and stacks' and a ring #3 for applications. It wasn't possible to have different release cycles for packages in ring #2 as dependencies wouldn't allow that most of the time. Read more

antiX 16 & OpenMandriva 3.0 Beta 2 Release, openSUSE Numbers

It was a busy day in Linux with Slack, antiX, and OpenMandriva all working towards their next releases. Sam Varghese quoted Alberto Planas who said openSUSE sees about 1600 new installations each month and Gentoo's Donnie Berkholz posted his retirement notice. Bruce Byfield posted two interesting articles today, one explaining the difference between an Open Source user and a Free Software Activist and the other describing the stringent Debian packaging policies. As a bonus, a lady in California won a $10,000 award in small claims court from Microsoft over its Windows 10 behavior. Read more Also: OpenMandriva Lx 3.0 Beta2 is here! New Releases!