April 26, 2008
National Security Letters Reform Act
By James Wilson has joined 28 other organizations in sending the House and Senate a message asking them to support S. 2088, the National Security Letters Reform Act. Here is the copy of the letter sent to the Senate:
April 22, 2008 Hon. John Conyers, Jr., Chairman Hon. Lamar S. Smith, Ranking Minority Member House Committee on the Judiciary 2138 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515-6216 Re: National Security Letters Reform Act, S. 2088 Dear Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Specter: The Judiciary Committee will soon consider issues relating to National Security Letters. We write to express our support for the National Security Letters Reform Act (S. 2088). The PATRIOT Act and Intelligence Authorization Act of FY 2004 drastically expanded the FBI's authority to obtain the business and personal records of Americans by issuing National Security Letters (NSLs). NSLs, which do not require prior judicial approval, can be used to obtain a wide range of documents based upon vague claims that the information is merely "relevant" to a terrorism investigation. Once the FBI acquires records with an NSL, it can keep them indefinitely, even when it concludes that the subject of those records is innocent of any crime and is not of intelligence interest. Undeniably, the FBI needs prompt access to some of the types of information currently acquired under NSLs, but the current method of self-policing simply does not work. Reports issued by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice in March 2007 and March 2008 documented the drastic expansion of the use of NSLs and their subsequent abuse. The IG’s reports also show that NSLs are increasingly used to obtain records about Americans, making reform all the more important. The NSL Reform Act appropriately addresses the problems uncovered by the Inspector General's reports by establishing statutory safeguards and judicial oversight while protecting privacy concerns and bolstering national security interests. The bi-partisan NSL Reform Act includes many beneficial reforms. First, it would limit the reach of NSLs by allowing only less sensitive personal information to be made available under this authority. Other existing authorities could still be used to obtain the more sensitive information that would no longer be available with an NSL. It would require the government to determine that records sought with an NSL relate to someone who is connected to terrorism or espionage. The bill would require the Attorney General to issue minimization procedures for information obtained through NSLs, and to create a system to track their use. It would also enhance oversight by requiring additional reporting to Congress. The act would also establish reasonable limits on the “gag” that attaches to an NSL, requiring it to be narrowly tailored and limiting it to 30-days, extendable by a court. The bill would also tighten the standards for court-issued orders under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act (the “library records” provision) by requiring the government to show that the records sought relate to a suspected terrorist or spy, or to someone directly linked to such a person. We believe this bill takes significant steps toward achieving a balance between privacy and national security concerns. We ask that the Judiciary Committee consider this legislation and report it favorably as soon as is practical. For more information, please contact ACLU’s Michelle Richardson, mrichardson-at-dcaclu-dot-org, 202/715-0825. Sincerely, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee American Civil Liberties Union American Library Association American Policy Center Association of Research Libraries Bill of Rights Defense Committee Center for American Progress Action Fund Center for Democracy & Technology Constitution Project Concerned Foreign Service Officers Defending Dissent Foundation, Inc. Electronic Frontier Foundation Equal Justice Alliance Federation of American Scientists Friends Committee on National Legislation Government Accountability Project Gun Owners of America Japanese American Citizens League League of Women Voters of the United States Liberty Coalition The Multiracial Activist National Security Archive National Lawyers Guild--National Office OMB Watch Unitarian Universalist Service Committee United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation cc: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee Gregory T. Nojeim Senior Counsel and Director, Project on Freedom, Security & Technology 1634 Eye St., NW Ste 1100 Washington, DC 20006 202.637-9800 x113 202.637.0968 fax gnojeim-at-cdt-dot-org
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