The Associated Press reports on a troubling investigation of the FBI by the Justice Department’s Inspector General that affects individual privacy:
FBI Director Robert Mueller told Congress on Wednesday that he does not know how many of his agents cheated on an important exam on the bureau’s policies, an embarrassing revelation that raises questions about whether the FBI knows its own rules for conducting surveillance on Americans.
The Justice Department inspector general is investigating whether hundreds of agents cheated on the test. Some took the open-book test together, violating rules that they take it alone. Others finished the lengthy exam unusually quickly, current and former officials said.
The test was supposed to ensure that FBI agents understand new rules allowing them to conduct surveillance and open files on Americans without evidence of criminal wrongdoing. If agents can’t pass that test without cheating, civil liberties groups ask, how can they follow them? […]
Mueller, himself, appeared shaky on the rules during the questioning, however. He told Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., that the FBI cannot conduct surveillance unless it suspects wrongdoing. FBI rules require no such standard. They allow agents to conduct surveillance proactively, without any evidence that a crime has been committed.
After the hearing, the FBI said, Mueller sent a note to Durbin saying he misspoke. The FBI must have a proper purpose before conducting surveillance, but suspicion of wrongdoing is not required, he said. […]
The FBI has a checkered past when it comes to conducting surveillance. From the late 1950s through the early 1970s, the bureau opened hundreds of thousands of files on Americans and domestic groups, including anti-war organizations, civil rights groups and women’s movements. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the bureau collected U.S. phone and computer records without court orders.