National Security Letters Are Starting To Be Exposed

/ 5 years ago


Security and secrecy are commonplace these days, with hacks and threats all around the world coming together in the digital world. Not only does our information being accessible from all over the world pose a danger, but we also have the threat that even the people we trust, the very organisation that pertain to protect us, can get to this information. One way of doing this within the U.S. has been the National security letter, but finally some light is being shed on what these actually contain.

National Security Letters (NSL) is a tool which means that federal investigators can request a person’s information from any organisation it deems necessary, your doctors or car dealer, your bank or your even your work. The problem people have had with these documents is that all they need to be considered valid is an agent’s signature saying it was relevant to a case. This meant there was no legal process, no Judge’s or legal oversight.

What made the NSL even more fighting was that it came with a built-in gag order, making it illegal to even state you had been issued one to disclose information. Citing the first amendment the federal Judge in a case of a small ISP being requested information from an NSL, as shown in the court document here, show that the list is quite extensive.

Your name and “related subscriber information”, account number, addresses and phone numbers, screen names and billing information, even your IP’s and “any other information which you consider to be electronic communication transactional record”. While some of these may seem completely irrelevant it even includes to things ordered or shipped relating to the account.

Nicholas Merill, the president of Calyx Internet Access in New York back in 2004, has been fighting the gag order contained within the NSL for 11 years in an attempt to reveal the information the FBI was seeking.

The gag orders have since been lessened, as stated by the Director of National Intelligence, the gag orders will be terminated after three years unless a special agent and case agent can determine and provide in writing why the gag order is required for an extended period.

It’s scary just how much information they could legally obtain, without any legal restrictions or oversight.

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