Justice Department Report Directly Contradicts the Attorney General's Claims about the Patriot Act

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Justice Department Report Directly Contradicts the Attorney General's Claims about the Patriot Act

The Justice Department’s own Inspector General said information collected under Section 215 did not lead to "any major case developments," but on the same day Attorney General Loretta Lynch claimed that Section 215 has "proven very important in cases that we have built." Both statements cannot be true. (Photot: CBS News/Screenshot)

In the midst of the last-minute Congressional debate about whether to re-authorize Patriot Act Section 215, the Justice Department Inspector General (IG) released a long awaited report on Thursday on how the FBI has used (and abused) Section 215 for the past few years. Unfortunately, the report is heavily redacted so the law's use remains largely shrouded in secrecy, but one passage in the IG report is particularly revealing: It directly contradicts what Attorney General Loretta Lynch said just today about Section 215’s supposed importance.

As ACLU's Jameel Jaffer pointed out, one of the IG report's main conclusions is that FBI “did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders.”

Meanwhile, on Thursday Attorney General Loretta Lynch weighed in on the debate in Congress, claiming the exact opposite. She was quoted by CBS News as saying that if Patriot Act Section 215 expires: “[W]e lose important tools. I think that we lose the ability to intercept these communications, which have proven very important in cases that we have built in the past.” (emphasis mine)

So to sum up: the Justice Department’s own Inspector General said information collected under Section 215 did not lead to "any major case developments,” but the Attorney General said that Section 215 has “proven very important in cases that we have built.” Both statements cannot be true.

It’s no wonder hardly anyone believes what government officials say about the alleged importance of the FBI or NSA’s mass surveillance programs anymore.  

Trevor Timm

Trevor Timm

Trevor Timm is a co-founder and the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. He is a writer, activist, and legal analyst who specializes in free speech and government transparency issues. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian and has also contributed to The Atlantic, Al Jazeera, Foreign Policy, Harvard Law and Policy Review, PBS MediaShift, and Politico. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorTimm

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