Nadler-Flake National Security Letters Bill Restores Vital Privacy Protections
For immediate release:
July 26, 2007
(202) 637-9800 x106
WASHINGTON -- The National Security Letters Reform Act takes some vital first steps in restoring basic privacy protections to law-abiding Americans, while still providing the government with the tools it needs to pursue real threats, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) said today.
In 2001, the PATRIOT Act drastically expanded the FBI's authority to obtain the business and personal records of Americans by issuing National Security Letters (NSLs). The NSLs, which do not require prior judicial approval, can be used to obtain a wide range of documents about virtually anyone, based upon the mere claim that the information is "relevant" to a terrorism investigation.
The National Security Letters Reform Act would limit the reach of this powerful tool by requiring that NSLs only be used to obtain records that pertain to suspected spies or terrorists. The bill would also establish stronger limits on the "gag" rules attached to NSLs and provide financial redress in cases where NSLs are issued illegally.
Although the legislation does not require prior judicial approval of NSLs -- a key reform -- CDT supports the bill and looks forward to working with Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Jeff Flake to strengthen the measure even further.
"This legislation is a critical first step toward reestablishing fundamental privacy protections that were lost in a rush to bolster national security in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks," said Gregory Nojeim, Senior Counsel and Director of CDT's Project on Freedom, Security and Technology. "As this bill demonstrates, strengthening privacy and national security are not mutually exclusive. We can provide the government the tools it needs without trampling on the rights of innocent Americans."
Nojeim and CDT Policy Director Jim Dempsey are available for comment on the National Security Letters Reform Act and other stories relating to warrantless surveillance. Reporters may contact them directly by e-mail or set up phone interviews by contacting David McGuire at (202) 637-9800 x106.