Thursday, July 06, 2006

With only a letter, FBI can gather private data

National Security Letters' reach expanded after 9/11 By Richard Willing USA TODAY When the FBI office in New Haven, Conn., received an e-mail in February 2005 that looked like a terrorist threat, agents followed a familiar routine. They asked the service provider, a group of Connecticut public libraries, for the real name, street address and Internet logs of the sender. They had no search warrant, grand jury subpoena or court order. Instead, a local FBI official hand-delivered a National Security Letter — one of more than 9,000 sent to finance, telephone and Internet companies last year — that described the records needed. Under a federal law expanded by the anti-terrorism USA Patriot Act of 2001, the written request was all the authority the FBI needed. The Patriot Act also barred the librarians from disclosing the request to anyone. The librarians refused to hand over the information. Instead, they filed a federal lawsuit challenging the secret letters as an unconstitutional infringement on free speech. Read full article