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The most important part of FBI Director Mueller's press conference about the domestic spying scandal

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FBI Director Mueller is giving a press conference on just how and why the FBI, again, spied on Americans illegally. Buried in his speech, at the very end of his speech, is this little nugget, which I think is the most egregious and important part of his entire admission:

Exigent letters

MUELLER: By statute, communications carriers can provide us information in emergency situations, and they're entitled to trust our representation that it is indeed an emergency situation. After September 11, the practice grew up whereby we would provide to these carriers a letter saying that indeed we needed particular information because of the exigent nature of the investigation and that a grand jury subpoena would follow. In a substantial number of these cases the inspector general found that there were not necessarily exigent circumstances and that grand jury subpoenas had not followed. And while we were entitled to that information, we were utilizing the wrong vehicle to obtain that information. I should make it clear that communications companies were absolutely entitled to rely on our representation in providing those materials.
1. We're talking about the phone companies and the Internet companies providing copies of your phone records, possibly copies of your phone conversations, your email traffic, the Web sites you've visited, your online chat conversations, and more to the FBI. Let's just make that clear right away.

2. What Mueller just said is that the law says that the FBI can go to phone and Internet companies and get your private information, without first getting a court order, under very particular circumstances:

a. There must be exigent circumstances, i.e., it has to be an emergency, Osama could slip away before the FBI has time to get the court order.

b. The FBI has to go to the court shortly after it solicits your records from the phone company so that the court can issue a subpoena ex post facto, in other words the court can validate the FBI's actions after the fact in order to ensure that they're not violating your rights under the 4th Amendment.

But what did Mueller tell us? He told us that in a substantial number of the cases where these FBI demand letters were issued to the phone and Internet companies, the circumstances were NOT exigent, there was NO emergency, the FBI could have easily gone to a court and had a judge look at the evidence - the FBI was LEGALLY REQUIRED to go to a judge to get a subpoena in order to spy on innocent Americans - but they didn't.

Second, Mueller told us that the FBI never went to the judges after the fact to prove that the FBI wasn't abusing its power by conducting this domestic spying, and more importantly to prove that the FBI wasn't violating the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution by conducting illegal searches and seizures. Why did the FBI break the law in order to spy on American citizens and violate the Constitution?

Third, the phone companies and the Internet providers, yet again, massively put at risk the privacy of every single customer. Every single one of us was at risk, is at risk, because the phone and Internet companies KNEW the government had to act under exigent circumstances, KNEW the government had to issue a subpoena after the fact, and even though neither of these things happened, we never heard a bloody word from the phone companies and the Internet companies, the courts apparently never heard a word from the phone companies and Internet companies, the guardians of our privacy.

The FBI just spied on American citizens in clear violation of the law and the Constitution. The big phone companies and the big Internet providers were overly-willing accomplices. I want to know what's going to be done about it. For starters, let's haul those phone company and Internet company CEOs before Congress, under oath, and ask them why they're so willing to violate the privacy of millions of innocent Americans.

PS Extra points to CNN for cutting off Mueller's press conference just as the reporters were starting to ask him questions about this massive violation of Americans' privacy in order to report instead on a manhunt that took place in South Florida after a man walked into a store and shot someone, and to then go to commercials. Wow, that clearly took precedence over breaking news involving massive illegal spying on American citizens. And CNN wonders why they just can't seem to catch up to FOX.

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