Skip to main content

Two Reports About FBI's Use of National Security Letters Reissued

DEEPLINKS BLOG
October 24, 2014

Two Reports About FBI's Use of National Security Letters Reissued

Even the reports that are supposed to provide transparency about the FBI's use of national security lettters (NSLs) are secret—or at least a couple dozen pages of them are. NSLs are nonjudicial orders that allow the FBI to obtain information from companies, without a warrant, about their customers’ use of services. They almost always contain a gag order, which prohibits recipients from even saying they've received the request.

Two Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reports reviewing the FBI's use of NSLs from 2007 and 2008 were reissued earlier this week after having portions declassified. You can see the newly released versions of the 2007 report here and the 2008 report here.

Charlie Savage at the New York Times has reviewed and listed the changes. Some of them make sense. For example, one portion of the 2007 report masked references to a "Virginia Jihad network," which might have been redacted because of an ongoing investigation. But some of the previously classified portions are less explicable, such as the classification of the percentage of requests done under particular statutes. It's unclear what purpose keeping that number secret serves. What is clear is that excessive classification and redaction continue to get in the way of much-needed transparency around NSLs.

Back to top

JavaScript license information