Valerie E. Caproni, general counsel and top attorney for the FBI, has told the Washington Times that using “exigent letters” to obtain the phone records of Washington Post and New York Times reporters was a mistake, and not malevolent.
Earlier this month, FBI Director Robert Mueller called top editors at the two papers to apologize for obtaining four reporters’ toll phone records in 2004. All four were stationed in Indonesia and researching Islamic terrorism at the time.
The Bureau has since banned the use of exigent letters, which allowed the agency to bypass judicial review when obtaining such records. Caproni told the Times that an agent seeking toll phone records now must write a memo explaining the emergency that makes such a request necessary and that a supervisor must approve the request.
The new process continues to avoid judicial review.
Shortly after news of the requests surfaced, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the ranking officials on the Senate Judiciary Committee, promised Congressional hearings to seek more information about the FBI’s improper efforts to access reporters’ phone records.