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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

FBI Finds It Regularly Breaks Law

WASHINGTON -- An FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years.

The new audit covers just 10 percent of the bureau's national security investigations since 2002, and so the mistakes in the FBI's domestic surveillance efforts probably number several thousand, bureau officials said. An earlier report by the U.S. Justice Department in March, which ignited bipartisan congressional criticism, found 22 violations in a much smaller sampling.

The vast majority of the new violations were instances in which telephone companies and Internet providers gave agents phone and e-mail records, the agents did not request and were not authorized to collect.

But two dozen of the newly discovered violations involved agents' requests for information that U.S. law did not allow them to have, the audit results show. Only two such examples were identified earlier in the smaller sample.

FBI officials said the results confirmed what agency supervisors and outside critics feared: that many agents did not understand or follow the required legal procedures and paperwork when collecting information with one of the most powerful tools of the post-Sept. 11 era -- the National Security Letter.

Such letters are secret and amount to nonnegotiable demands for personal information without judicial review.