The report is a follow-up to an audit by the inspector general a year ago that found the FBI demanded personal data on people from banks, telephone and Internet providers and credit bureaus without official authorization and in non-emergency circumstances between 2003 and 2005.
Speaking before the FBI chief, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, urged Mueller to be more vigilant in correcting what he called "widespread illegal and improper use of national security letters."
"Everybody wants to stop terrorists. But we also, though, as Americans, we believe in our privacy rights and we want those protected," Leahy said. "There has to be a better chain of command for this. You cannot just have an FBI agent who decides he'd like to obtain Americans' records, bank records or anything else and do it just because they want to."
Leahy's right. What we need is some sort of oversight system to make sure these abuses don't happen again, and I think I have an idea. Now hear me out, this is probably going to sound really out there, but what if -- and again, this is just a thought -- what if law enforcement agents had to get permission from someone to probe citizens' private records. Someone familiar with both the law and law enforcement, like a judge maybe, who could make sure the whole thing isn't a waste of time and resources or an unnecessary violation of someone's privacy.
Better make it written permission, now that I think about it. Just in case there's some legal trouble later, you can have a paper trail showing who was involved in the decision-making, why they made the decision, etc.
Let's call it...a warrant. Yeah, I like that. Warrant. It's got a zippy, Wild West feel to it, don't you think?
Nah, who am I kidding. It's too crazy to work.