ACLU Rebuts FBI Director’s Remarks About National Security Letter Lawsuit

November 7, 2007 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – A federal court ruling striking down the national security letter (NSL) provision of the Patriot Act was anything but “misguided,” contrary to recent comments made by FBI Director Robert Mueller, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. NSLs allow the government to obtain private personal and financial records without prior court approval and permit the FBI to impose “gag” orders on those served with the letters.

Mueller was referring to a decision in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a still-anonymous Internet Service Provider (ISP). The ISP received a national security letter from the government demanding information on a client as well as silence regarding the receipt of the letter. The district court found the NSL statute unconstitutional in September and the government filed its appeal earlier this week.

A March 2007 report from the Justice Department’s Inspector General found serious abuses by the FBI of its NSL power.

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project:

“National security letters allow the FBI virtually unfettered access to highly sensitive information in the hands of internet service providers, libraries, universities, and other organizations. This intrusive surveillance power should be subject to meaningful public and judicial oversight. Director Mueller’s comments suggest that the FBI still believes that it should be permitted to police itself and to operate unencumbered by democratic checks and balances. That’s a disturbing position and the district court was right to reject it. We are confident that the district court’s ruling will be affirmed on appeal.”

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