Transparency Project

National Security Letters (NSLs)

Before the USA PATRIOT Act the FBI could only use so-called National Security Letters for securing the records of suspected terrorists or spies. But under PATRIOT the FBI can use them to get telephone Internet financial credit and other personal records about anybody without any court approval as long as it believes the information could be relevant to an authorized terrorism or espionage investigation.

From the moment PATRIOT was passed we said the NSL power was ripe for abuse and unconstitutional and in March 2007 the Department of Justice's inspector general released a report confirming extensive misuse of NSLs in a sample of four FBI field offices. An internal audit by the FBI confirmed that the problem was far more extensive than first thought.

In the wake of the inspector general's report EFF filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking fundamental information about the FBI's abuse of power. On June 16 2007 a federal judge ordered the FBI to process 2 500 pages a month responsive to EFF's request. Here you will find key excerpts of the materials as well the full documents.

In 2007 the New York Times reported that the military was increasingly using NSLs to gather intelligence within the United States. In response EFF requested documents from the Pentagon to document its use of NSLs. In October 2007 the Department of Defense began producing documents responsive to EFF's request.

US Federal Agencies:

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