DOJ defends use of National Security Letters

[JURIST] US Assistant Attorney General William E. Moschella [official profile] defended the use of National Security Letters [PDF sample text; ACLU materials] in a 10-page letter sent to the Chairmen of the US House and Senate Judiciary Committees Tuesday, rebutting claims raised by a Washington Post article [text] that NSLs have been used to spy on law-abiding citizens. NSLs allow the FBI to obtain private phone, internet, and business records; while most information about their use remains classified, Moschella claims that the FBI has not issued over 30,000 a year, as claimed by the Post article, nor have they used the letters to spy on innocent citizens. He nonetheless admitted that some citizens whose records are accessed "may not be terrorists or spies or associated with terrorists or spies." House and Senate negotiators have reached a tentative agreement [JURIST report] to renew several Patriot Act provisions affecting the use of NSLs, including one that requires the Justice Department to report annually to Congress on the number of NSLs issued that year, and one that allows recipients to consult a lawyer before complying. A lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] said that though the government may obtain such information, "I think the American people would prefer that there be some sort of connection and if not, then the records ought to be destroyed." AP has more.

 

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