National Security Letters (NSLs) are in the news a lot lately. Earlier in the year, a Justice Department report found that abuses of this powerful investigation tool were rampant, despite repeated statements to the contrary by Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Then, documents obtained by EFF under the Freedom of Information Act exposed chronic misuses of NSLs, as well as other illegal demands that phone companies provide information on a target?s "Community of Interest." And let?s not forget that earlier this month, a federal judge ruled NSLs unconstitutional.
But what are NSLs, exactly? How do they work? Who receives them, and why? A new short video produced by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) does a great job of bringing facts and analysis to the discussion of this controversial expansion of executive power. FBI Unbound: How National Security Letters Violate Our Privacy describes what exactly happens when an NSL is sent, and how NSLs allow unprecedented spying on American citizens.
The 26-minute video features lengthy interviews with two former Justice Department officials, Lisa Graves and Bruce Fein, who speak candidly about the ways this tool has been used to violate Americans? right to privacy, and the dangers it poses to democracy and the Constitution. The film also includes fascinating testimony from one of only four NSL recipients that are allowed to talk about the experience ? George Christian, Executive Director of Library Connection, explains what happened when he received an NSL and, after careful consideration, refused to comply.