Washington Post - The FBI started its case in June with a collection of five e-mails, a few hundred kilobytes of data at most.
By the time the probe exploded into public view earlier this month, the FBI was sitting on a mountain of data containing the private communications — and intimate secrets — of a CIA director and a U.S. war commander. What the bureau didn’t have — and apparently still doesn’t — is evidence of a crime...
How that happened and what it means for privacy and national security are questions that have induced shudders in Washington and a queasy new understanding of the FBI’s comprehensive access to the digital trails left by even top officials.
FBI and Justice Department officials have vigorously defended their handling of the case. “What we did was conduct the investigation the way we normally conduct a criminal investigation,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Thursday. “We follow the facts.”
But in this case, the trail cut across a seemingly vast territory with no clear indication of the boundaries, if any, that the FBI imposed on itself. The thrust of the investigation changed direction repeatedly and expanded dramatically in scope.
... On Capitol Hill, the case has drawn references to the era of J. Edgar Hoover, the founding director of the FBI, who was notorious for digging up dirt on Washington’s elite long before the invention of e-mail and the Internet.
“The expansive data that is available electronically now means that when you’re looking for one thing, the chances of finding a whole host of other things is exponentially greater,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House intelligence committee and a former federal prosecutor.