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

The Machine with Open Source Carbon OS is the Next Big Thing – if HP can deliver

HP has recently been facing some serious difficulties and has opted to betting all its resources on the new PC called ‘The Machine’. Probably the most intriguing thing about the machine is that it will rewrite basic computing on a very fundamental level. While the topic has been covered extensively, I realized we haven’t actually touched it here and thought it was about time. Read more

YEAR of the PENGUIN: A Linux mobile in 2015?

It's nearly impossible to sum up an entire year of developments in something as large and nebulous as the world of desktop Linux, especially in a year like this one which has seen some the best releases that projects like Mint, Fedora and openSUSE have put out to date. At the same time the distro that's closest to being a household name, Ubuntu, has been nearly silent since 14.04 arrived in April. To paraphrase author Charles Dickens, the past year of Linux releases has been both the best of times and the worst of times. At the very moment that Linux desktops seem to be reaching new levels of sophistication, polish and "just works" ease-of-use, the entire future of the desktop computer (by which I also mean laptop) feels in doubt. Read more

Jolla's Sailfish OS Update 10 Is Now Available

The tenth update to Jolla's Sailfish mobile operating system is now available. This update is version 1.1.1.26 and is codenamed Vaarainjärvi. Read more

Forget Google's robot cars, now it's on to ANDROID cars

Google is planning a big push into in-car infotainment systems with an upcoming version of Android, sources claim. "Android M" – the version to come after the current Android 5.0 "Lollipop" – will be available in a formulation designed specifically to run cars' built-in screens, Reuters reports, citing anonymous insiders with knowledge of the plan. Google made its first advances toward the automotive world at its I/O developer conference earlier this year, when it unveiled its Android Auto software. The first Android Auto–compatible cars are expected to arrive early next year. Read more