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A Dual Challenge to National Security Letters

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April 15, 2008

This afternoon, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties will hold a hearing on the government’s use – and abuse, we argue – of National Security Letters (NSLs).

Jameel Jaffer, Director of our National Security Project, will testify. Yesterday, Mandy Simon of our Washington, D.C. Legislative Office, gave a preview of what will be discussed at today’s hearing, and sums up the status of our current lawsuit against the NSL provision of the Patriot Act in our DailyKos Diary.

In addition to Jameel’s testimony on the Hill, today we filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking the release of records concerning the FBI’s use of NSLs on behalf of other agencies. Last month, newly unredacted documents obtained through our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit found that the Department of Defense (DoD) has been having the FBI issue NSLs to get sensitive, private information the DoD wants on people inside the U.S. They did this because the DoD isn’t allowed to pursue that kind of info itself. Apparently, rules are made to be broken.

It’s been shown time and again that our intelligence agencies have been abusing their already-broad NSL powers, which is why we’re supporting H.R. 3189 and S. 2088, the National Security Letters Reform Act of 2007. This legislation will make sure that NSLs are issued to gather information on an individual with some sort of connection to a terrorist, instead of the current system which allows the government to collect information on just about anyone.

Imagine that: Issuing an NSL only when there’s a reason to issue one…