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Judge Orders FBI to Release NSL Abuse Records

June 15, 2007

Judge Orders FBI to Release NSL Abuse Records

New Evidence of Misuse Prompts Immediate Response in EFF FOIA Lawsuit

Washington, D.C. - A judge ordered the FBI today to finally release agency records about its abuse of National Security Letters (NSLs) to collect Americans' personal information. The ruling came just a day after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the judge to immediately respond in its lawsuit over agency delays.

EFF sued the FBI in April for failing to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about the misuse of NSLs as revealed in a Justice Department report. This week, more evidence of abuse was uncovered by the Washington Post, and EFF urged the judge Thursday to force the FBI to stop stalling the release of its records on the deeply flawed program.

"The reports we've seen so far about NSL abuse are just the tip of the iceberg," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "FBI officials told the Washington Post that there have likely been several thousand total instances of misuse. Americans deserve answers about this scandal and how the FBI has abused its power to spy on ordinary citizens."

Under the PATRIOT Act, the FBI can use NSLs to get private records about anyone's domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions without any court approval -- as long as it claims the information could be relevant to a terrorism or espionage investigation. Without a judge's oversight, the law is ripe for the abuse that has been uncovered in these recent reports.

"The law itself is the source of the problem. It's time for Congress to repeal these expanded NSL powers and protect Americans from this abuse of authority," said Hofmann.

The judge's order requires the FBI to process 2500 pages of NSL-related records by July 5, and then 2500 pages every 30 days thereafter.

For the judge's order:
http://www.eff.org/flag/nsl/bates_order.pdf

For EFF's supplemental memo:
http://eff.org/flag/nsl/supplemental_memo.pdf

For the Washington Post article on NSLs:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/13/AR2007061302453_pf.html

Contacts:

Marcia Hofmann
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
marcia@eff.org

Rebecca Jeschke
Media Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
press@eff.org

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