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

Arch Linux 2015.09.01 Is Now Available for Download

The first day of a month is an important day for all Arch Linux users, as a new ISO image is being generated with all the updated packages released during the month that passed. Read more

The Wacom Linux Driver Continues To Be Improved, New Features In Linux 4.3

Jiri Kosina sent in his pull requests for code he maintains within the mainline Linux kernel, with one of the notable subsystems being the HID updates. Most notable to the HID feature updates for Linux 4.3 are yet more Wacom driver improvements, which are a mention for almost every kernel cycle. Wacom highlights for Linux 4.3 include support for the Express Key Remote and various bug-fixes and feature work. Read more

5 Reasons Not To "Not Use Linux"

2000+ people have already watched Tim's video and that is potentially 2000 people that might not use Linux based on invalid arguments. Hopefully a few more people will read this article and therefore redress the balance somewhat. Before I go I wanted to mention that Tim has produced his own counter argument called "5 Reasons To Use Linux". The points in that video state that Linux is multikernel, is open source, has support for many different hardware devices such as the Raspberry PI, has lots of distros (which kind of counters against point 5 in the reasons not to use Linux) and finally it is free. Read more

x86 Systems Will See Some Boot Time Optimizations With Linux 4.3

Ingo Molnar sent in his several Git pull requests today for the code he maintains within the Linux kernel. Of Molnar's pull requests, the x86/boot changes caught my attention. He mentions "more boot time optimizations." Read more