The FBI began issuing NSLs in 2001, shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. under the expanded powers offered by the PATRIOT Act. With the passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, the powers afforded law enforcement by a NSL have been reined in, said Andrew Crocker, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“On one level, this is a very big deal. This is the first NSL attachment that has been unsealed and the FBI issued 300,000 since 2001. That’s a lot to be issued without seeing even one attachment,” Crocker said. “We get to see the scope of what the FBI could get with a NSL since 2004. It’s since then been reined in, and the scope is a little bit narrower. But it’s a big deal to see the breadth of what they thought they could get back then.”