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More NSL Abuse? Color Us Shocked.

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March 5, 2008

Today the FBI Director, Robert Mueller, let slip in a Senate hearing that there has been more (yes, more) FBI abuse of the National Security Letter (or NSL) statute.NSLs allow agents to obtain personal information on Americans as a part of ongoing investigations.The catch is that agents need no court review to hand out an NSL and have been doing so with seemingly wild abandon in the years following 9/11.The authority was widely expanded in the legislative mistake known as the USA Patriot Act and the ACLU has successfully litigated against the statute’s gag order.

Last year, the Office of the Inspector General released its audit of the FBI’s use of NSLs (PDF) and the results were astounding.The report covered the years 2003 to 2005 and revealed widespread misuse, abuse and mismanagement. The OIG is set to release the next report in the coming days.It should be noted that their homework is a little overdue.The report was supposed to be in to Congress by December of last year. No doubt this report will be just as inflammatory given today’s admission by Director Mueller.Watch this space for updates on the imminent report and what should be a fascinating read.