DOJ's Inspector General Releases New Review of FBI Use of Section 215 Orders

By Cody M. Poplin
Thursday, May 21, 2015, 2:27 PM

The Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice has released a new unclassified report reviewing the FBI's use of Section 215 orders from 2007 through 2009.

Specifically, the review examines the progress of the Department and the FBI in addressing the three recommendations in the OIG's March 2008 report: that the Department implement minimization procedures for the handling of non-publicly available information concerning U.S. persons produced in response to Section 215 orders, as required by the USA Patriot Reauthorization Act;  that the FBI develop procedures for reviewing materials received in response to Section 215 orders to ensure that the materials do not contain information outside the scope of the FISC orders; and that the FBI develop procedures for handling material that is produced in response to, but outside the scope of, a Section 215 order.

Among other things, the newly released May 2015 review finds that the Department and FBI resolved the recommendations with the final FBI Standard Minimization Procedures for Tangible Things Obtained Pursuant to Title V of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Final Procedures), released on March 7, 2013. However, the review raises questions as to why it took the Department 7 years to develop the minimization procedures and 5 years to address the OIG recommendation that the Department comply with the statutory requirement to develop those specific minimization procedures.

The report also encourages the Department and the FBI to periodically evaluate the Final Procedures' implementation in order to determine whether additional clarifications or explanations are appropriate.

In addition to examining the progress in addressing recommendations of its previous report, the OIG's May 2015 report also provides an overview of the FBI's use of Section 215 authority during the 2007-2009 period, describing the number of Section 215 orders obtained, the type of information requested, the number of FBI offices using the authority, and the collection of U.S. person information.

The review concludes:

As with our previous reviews, the agents we interviewed did not identity any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders, but told us that the material produced pursuant to Section 215 orders was valuable in that it was used to support other investigative requests, develop investigative leads, and corroborate other information.

You can find the full report here.