National Security Letters

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new audit finds that the F-B-I has improperly, and in some cases illegally, used the Patriot Act.

The audit, by the Justice Department's inspector general, says the agency has misused the provisions of the act to secretly get personal information on Americans.

The report indicates the F-B-I has under reported how often it has forced businesses to turn over customer data.

It also says in some cases, F-B-I agents demanded data without proper authorization. In other cases, the F-B-I improperly obtained phone records in non-emergency situations.

Inspectors blame shoddy record-keeping and agent error for most problems. The audit didn't find any indication of criminal misconduct.

At issue are security letters, which are administrative subpoenas used in suspected terrorism and espionage cases. They allow the F-B-I to require businesses to turn over customer records without a judge's approval.

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