EFF Sues For Release of NSL Abuse Records

    April 13, 2007

On the heels of Congressional hearings and extensive media coverage of a Justice Department report documenting abuse of privacy measures, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is seeking an emergency order that would require the FBI to surrender and make public all records regarding the misuse of National Security Letters (NSLs) to collect private information from American citizens.

With the NSLs, federal agents could collect telephone, Internet, financial, credit, and other personal records about Americans without the need for judicial approval. The vast amount of power that this gave the FBI became a major concern in Congress once the Justice Department came forward with its reports of how the system had been misused.

"Congress has already dedicated several hearings to the FBI’s abuse of investigative power and is thinking about how to prevent such abuses in the future," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann.

"But if there is going to be meaningful debate about this issue, we need more information than what the Administration chooses to make public, and we need it now."

The EFF filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act demanding that the FBI release all records pertaining to the NSL abuse, hoping that the information will spur meaningful and informed debate concerning the implications surrounding the government’s methods in gathering the personal data of ordinary American citizens.

"There are a lot of questions right now about the government’s integrity when it comes to domestic surveillance. The FBI must follow the law and release these records to the public," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel.
Considering that search records have been used in federal cases involving murder, any conversation about the topic of privacy has to be inclusive of online practices. ISPs are already selling clickstream data to third parties, and it’s doubtful that the government would have to do much arm-twisting to get their hands on that same information.