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Golden Boy Robert Mueller's Forgotten Surveillance Crime Spree


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When Robert Mueller was appointed last May as Special Counsel to investigate Trump, Politico Magazine gushed that “Mueller might just be America’s straightest arrow — a respected, nonpartisan and fiercely apolitical public servant whose only lifetime motivation has been the search for justice.” Most of the subsequent press coverage has shown nary a doubt about Mueller’s purity. But, during his 11 years as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mueller’s agency routinely violated federal law and the Bill of Rights.

Mueller took over the FBI one week before the 9/11 attacks and he was worse than clueless after 9/11. On Sept. 14, 2011, Mueller declared, “Thefact that there were a number of individuals that happened to have received training at flight schools here is news, quite obviously. If we had understood that to be the case, we would have — perhaps one could have averted this.” Three days later, Mueller announced: “There were no warning signs that I’m aware of that would indicate this type of operation in the country.” His protestations helped the Bush administration railroad the Patriot Act through Congress, vastly expanding the FBI’s prerogatives to vacuum up Americans’ personal information.

Deceit helped capture those intrusive new prerogatives. The Bush administration suppressed until the following May the news that FBI agents in Phoenix and Minneapolis had warned FBI headquarters of suspicious Arabs in flight training programs prior to 9/11. A House-Senate Joint Intelligence Committee analysis concluded that FBI incompetence and negligence “contributed to the United States becoming, in effect, a sanctuary for radical terrorists.” FBI blundering spurred the Wall Street Journal to call for Mueller’s resignation, while a New York Times headline warned: “Lawmakers Say Misstatements Cloud F.B.I. Chief's Credibility.”

But the FBI was off and running. Thanks to the Patriot act, the FBI increased by a hundredfold — up to 50,000 a year — the number of National Security Letters (NSLs) it issued to citizens, business, and nonprofit organizations, and recipients were prohibited from disclosing that their data had been raided. NSLs entitle the FBI to seize records that reveal “where a person makes and spends money, with whom he lives and lived before, how much he gambles, what he buys online, what he pawns and borrows, where he travels, how he invests, what he searches for and reads on the Web, and who telephones or e-mails him at home and at work,” the Washington Post noted. The FBI can lasso thousands of people’s records with a single NSL — regardless of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable warrantless searches.

The FBI greatly understated the number of NSLs it was issuing and denied that abuses had occurred, thereby helping sway Congress to renew the Patriot Act in 2006. The following year, an Inspector General report revealed that FBI agents may have recklessly issued thousands of illegal NSLs.  Shortly after that report was released, federal judge Victor Marrero denounced the NSL process as “the legislative equivalent of breaking and entering, with an ominous free pass to the hijacking of constitutional values."

Rather than arresting FBI agents who broke the law, Mueller created a newFBI Office of Integrity and Compliance.  The Electronic Freedom Foundation, after winning lawsuits to garner FBI reports to a federal oversight board, concluded that the FBI may have committed “tens of thousands” of violations of federal law, regulations, or Executive Orders between 2001 and 2008.

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