The testimony, here, makes clear that the FBI misused and abused exigent letters. In many cases, there was no real emergency and in many cases where the FBI said that subpoenas had been sought, they had not been sought at all. Fine’s testimony also describes how the FBI engaged in other improper practices such as obtaining phone records on hot numbers without any legal process, improperly using administrative subpoenas, inaccurate statements to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and improper requests for reporters’ telephone numbers without required approval.
Part of the investigation and report dealt with how having representatives of three communication providers “on site” with the FBI facilitated a more casual approach to “exigent” letters and contributed to a blurring and weakening of required protections and procedures.
There’s a lot more to the report, including reference to another unspecified legal authority that the FBI claims it could have (but has not) used to obtain telephone records without relying on the NSL provisions of the ECPA.
What is clear from the testimony is that after 9-11, the government attempted to speed up acquisition of information for identifying potential terrorists, but that the sense of urgency led to wholesale disregard for proper procedure and protections, with all levels of the FBI being responsible for the misuse and abuse of procedures.