National Security Letters

Under U.S. law, the FBI may issue a National Security Letter (NSL) to a third-party record holder as part of an authorized national security investigation. NSLs may be issued without a warrant or other judicial involvement, but can be used only to acquire information that is not content---for example, transactional records or subscriber information. After 9/11, the PATRIOT Act expanded the permissible uses of NSLs beyond just of foreign powers and their agents to investigations of terrorism. The FBI’s revitalized use of NSLs in post-9/11 counterterrorism soon came under scrutiny over lack of transparency and absence of judicial involvement.

Latest in National Security Letters

FISA: 215 Collection

The Power of Citizenship Bias

Following up on my post from last week on the report of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) of the UK Parliament, which inter alia recommended that British law for the first time introduce distinctions between citizens and non-citizens for the purpose of regulating electronic surveillance, I'd like to briefly comment on another relevant development.

FISA: 215 Collection

Fishing Expedition

Do you worry that the NSA, perhaps in a joint program with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, might be considering a “collect-it-all” program to seize and monitor fish, crocodiles, or antelopes for national security purposes?  If so – and I think I may have read something about this on The Intercept – you can rest easier.   This week, the Supreme Court’s decision in a case involving the prosecution of a Florida fisherman has made that particular nightmare far less likely.


Expanding on the International vs. U.S. Surveillance Law Comparisons

Following my post from last week  regarding how the debate over the Snowden disclosures has blurred the distinctions between national security surveillance authorities and consumer privacy law, Tim Edgar pointed out yesterday  that U.S. law is probably one of the most, if not the most, protective legal structures concerning government access to data for national security purposes than any other nation.

Surveillance: Snowden NSA Controversy

Over 700 Million People Taking Steps to Avoid NSA Surveillance

There's a new international survey on Internet security and trust, of "23,376 Internet users in 24 countries," including "Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States." Amongst the findings, 60% of Internet users have heard of Edward Snowden, and 39% of those "have taken steps to p


Memo to NSA: Stop Saying You Apply the FIPPs

The intelligence community has no set of general principles for judging the privacy impact of their programs.  Some privacy scholars believe that the Fair Information Protection Principles (FIPPs) serve this purpose and can apply to intelligence programs as they do to myriad other government programs.  The NSA itself said in a recent report on collection under Executive Order 12333 that it was applying the FIPPs for the first time.

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