"From the 143,074 NSLs requested, there was only 1 confirmed terrorism-related conviction."
Here are a few highlights on National Security Letters (NSL):
A National Security Letter (NSL) is a letter request for information from a third party that is issued by the FBI or by other government agencies with authority to conduct national security investigations. Government agency issues the request for information without prior judicial approval. Obtaining NSL requires no probable cause or judicial oversight. They also contain a gag order preventing the recipient of the letter from disclosing that the letter was ever issued. The non-disclosure rules have helped prevent the full extent of the NSL program from becoming known, as the FBI has systematically underreported to Congress the number of letters sent. Unlike other subpoenas and warrants, no approval from the Judicial Branch is required to issue an NSL. An NSL may be issued by "the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or his designee in a position not lower than Deputy Assistant Director at Bureau headquarters or a Special Agent in Charge in a Bureau field office designated by the Director” with no checks and balances in place until after the NSL has been delivered.
An internal FBI audit found that the bureau violated the rules more than 1000 times in an audit of 10% of its national investigations between 2002 and 2007. According to the September 9, 2007 New York Times report on the FBI's use of NSLs to obtain broader information for data mining purposes, "In many cases, the target of a national security letter whose records are being sought is not necessarily the actual subject of a terrorism investigation and may not be suspected at all. Under the USA PATRIOT Act, the F.B.I. must assert only that the records gathered through the letter are considered relevant to a terrorism investigation." (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/09/washington/09fbi.html?_r=1 )
In April, 2008, the American Civil Liberties Union alleged that the military was using the FBI to skirt legal restrictions on domestic surveillance to obtain private records of Americans' Internet service providers, financial institutions and telephone companies. The ACLU based its allegation on a review of more than 1,000 documents turned over to it by the Defense Department in response to a suit the rights group filed in 2007 for documents related to national security letters.
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