Associated Press
March 13, 2008

The FBI improperly obtained personal information about Americans as part of terrorism investigations in 2006, but steps were taken by the agency to prevent future privacy abuses, an upcoming Justice Department report says.

The long-anticipated audit, to be released Thursday, is expected to show a fourth consecutive year of privacy breaches by FBI agents using so-called national security letters to gain access to telephone, e-mail, and financial records of Americans and foreigners without a judge’s approval.

Officials familiar with the report say it will note that the lapses all took place before the FBI and Justice Department enacted broad new reforms in March 2007 aimed at protecting individual privacy rights.

The report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine follows a similar audit he released last year. That report found 48 violations of law or rules during 2003-2005 in the bureau’s use of national security letters.

Fine estimated that there could be 3,000 more such violations among the more than 143,000 FBI requests for information during that period.

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