CDT Urges Limits on Broad FBI Power
CDT and other civil liberties groups called on Congress to develop reasonable checks and balances for the use of National Security Letters (NSLs), a controversial device, expanded under the PATRIOT Act, that allows FBI officials to demand disclosure of private records from banks, credit agencies, telephone companies and other businesses. NSLs, which are issued by FBI officials with no prior judicial review, came under new scrutiny this week after a Washington Post article revealed that the FBI issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, a hundredfold increase over pre-PATRIOT norms. "The Post noted that, under Attorney General guidelines issued in 2003, the FBI no longer destroys data it collects about US persons even if it is determined they have no connection to terrorism. The same guidelines encouraged the FBI to develop 'data mining' technology to probe for hidden links among the people in its growing cache of electronic data. Congress is considering whether to limit or expand PATRIOT powers.