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FBI Widens Use of National Security Letters 379

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the wishing-for-1984 dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Washington Post reports that the FBI has drastically increased its use of National Security Letters (NSL), which permit it to collect information without judicial oversight. According to the article, the use of NSLs is up by a factor of 100, and the records are kept forever (in the past they were thrown away if the subject was cleared). Deep in the article, the author reports that NSLs were used to collect records '[...] of every hotel guest, everyone who rented a car or truck, every lease on a storage space, and every airplane passenger who landed in [Las Vegas]' for a two week period, in response to a terrorism threat in 2003. Those records, apparently, will be kept forever by the federal government. There's an ombudsman, and a procedure to resolve complaints, but the mere existence of an NSL is secret, so it's not clear how anyone can complain!
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FBI Widens Use of National Security Letters

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  • Ombudsman? (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheSpoom (715771) * <slashdot&uberm00,net> on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:36PM (#13964460) Homepage Journal
    Man, I want THAT job.

    Person: Are you the ombudsman for National Security Letters?

    Me: Yes.

    Person: I'd like to complain about the FBI's issuance of one against me. I was cleared and they're now storing all my personal information forever.

    Me: Sir, you're not supposed to know about that.

    Person: But I...

    Me: I'm afraid you're now a threat to National Security.

    Person: Wait, what the... No, I'm an innocent man! I'M INNOCENT DAMN-*gunshots* *silence*

    Me: I love my job.
    • Re:Ombudsman? (Score:2, Interesting)

      Makes you wonder if the Freedom of Information Act applies? Just exactly how long will those letters remain "classified?"
    • Re:McCarthy called (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      He wants his agenda back.

      In late 2003, the Bush administration reversed a long-standing policy requiring agents to destroy their files on innocent American citizens, companies and residents when investigations closed. Late last month, President Bush signed Executive Order 13388, expanding access to those files for "state, local and tribal" governments and for "appropriate private sector entities," which are not defined.

      Is it just me, or does this demonstrate nothing but the most vile contempt for the citize
  • by lotusleaf (928941) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:37PM (#13964465) Homepage
    Just track everyone: Piggy back RFID/GPS chips on every sperm that swims
  • Tourisme (Score:2, Insightful)

    Another reason not to visit America.
    When I was a kid I wanted nothing more than to emigrate to the US of A. At the moment, I don't even want to visit it as a tourist.
    How things can change in less than a decade...
    • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:48PM (#13964533)
      Well, I would imagine that just by posting to Slashdot you are registered 'for all eternity' in some federal register. So, what's your point?
      • There is some difference between a nickname on /. and having a full cavity search when entering the states.
        It's not just this one thing. It's everything. The more I learn about and watch develop the current shape of the USA, the less I like it. The less I want to cross the atlantic, the less I want to be an American.
        There is also a difference between the EU, where I have a right to view the data they have on me (and have it alter if necessary) and the US, where privacy is being eroded. And everything happ
    • Re:Tourisme (Score:5, Interesting)

      by trollable (928694) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:56PM (#13964586) Homepage
      Same here. In fact, I also canceled a trip to a professional conference in S.F last summer. Didn't feel to be tracked (photograph, fingerprints, ...). Better go to china, you just need a visa.
      • Re:Tourisme (Score:4, Interesting)

        by badfish99 (826052) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @06:43PM (#13965258)
        I remember crossing the "Iron Curtain" back when we were supposed to be permanently 5 minutes away from nuclear war with the countries on the other side of it.

        The guards would just glance at my passport and wave me through. Same coming back.

        So why is it any different now?

        • Um... maybe because they take your fingerprints, photographs and iris scans, keep them forever, and probably share them with other governments, including your own?

          Look up US-VISIT and UKUSA... if my dad didn't live in the US I would honestly never go there again.

        • by jfengel (409917)
          Because then we expected death to come in the form of bombs on ICBMs, or perhaps as armies marching across Europe. Nobody figured that an individual would do much damage.

          Not that an individual couldn't do some damage, but it wouldn't particularly advance the USSR's goals to kill a few people at a time (or even a few thousand). And if they did piss us off by, say, flying planes into a few buildings, we knew right where the USSR was and could drop a few bombs of our own on it.

          The war we're engaged in now is
          • by HiThere (15173) *
            Nice justification for throwing the Constitution into the trash.

            The deaths, injuries, and other assorted damages commited by terrorists on the US pale in comparison to the damages the government has inflicted on the Constitution in a purported effort to protect us. Even were I to believe every word they said about the evidence and their purposes and intentions, I would still consider everyone who either votes for or enforces the "PATRIOT" act a felon who has comitted malfeasance.

            My actual thoughts do not g
      • Re:Tourisme (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cfulmer (3166)
        Cough... Cough...

        Are you serious? Let's see.... Go to an office supply store in San Francisco, buy some posterboard and a fat marker. Write up a sign that says "Down with Bush. Republicans are a bunch of morons." Put it on your car and drive around. See what happens.

        Try the same thing in China, except have the sign say "Down with Hu Jintao. Communists are a bunch of morons." Put it on a car and drive around. See what happens.

        Try having a student-led demonstration in the capitol of each country. (
    • Re:Tourisme (Score:4, Insightful)

      by patricksevenlee (679708) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:05PM (#13964661)
      Another reason not to visit America. When I was a kid I wanted nothing more than to emigrate to the US of A. At the moment, I don't even want to visit it as a tourist. How things can change in less than a decade...

      Right before 9/11, I was offered a job in the US, but it fell through (guess for what reason) and at the time, it was really difficult because I wanted to leave Canada for the US. Looking back now, the job not coming through is the best thing that could have happened to me because I definitely would be making a quick exit out of the US of A.

      As well, I used to love driving to Buffalo, NY to spend money shopping, and took yearly vacations to places like Florida and Alaska, but since 9/11, I have not even come close to American soil. The last thing I need is to be body cavity searched or interrogated. Sure, I have nothing to hide, it doesn't mean I want to submit myself to a complete loss of my personal freedoms. America, it's been a slice, I hope one day you'll become a place of freedom again, when it does, I'll be the first in line to come over to celebrate.

      • Re:Tourisme (Score:4, Interesting)

        by zx75 (304335) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @10:01PM (#13966334) Homepage
        I'm in the same boat, at one time I thought it would be inevitable that to find a good paying job as a software developer I would have to move to the US. But, things changed and I have a great job with good enough pay here in Canada, and I haven't even visited the states since April 2001 even though I had an Aunt & Uncle just living 4 hours down the road in Detroit.

        As well, another aunt & uncle got kicked out of the US when the government refused to renew my uncle's visa despite possessing a pretty unique skill, being steadily employed by the same company for 30 years, and having lived in the states for at least the last 5. Now he has to travel from Canada to the US every week or two for work.

        At one time my parents used to drive to Grand Forks North Dakota once a year to go shopping, now I wouldn't set foot in the country unless I was passing through to Mexico or the Bahamas, or on a business trip. The uncle who is American, has been interrogated on his way back into the US on at least one occasion, worst I've ever had going through customs in my own country is being asked if I had any foreign fruits or veggies in my bag.
    • Re:Tourisme (Score:5, Insightful)

      by IdleTime (561841) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @06:13PM (#13965067) Journal
      Well, I've been living in USA since 1999 and over the years I have realized that USA:
      - Is not free
      - Is not democractic
      - Don't have free speech
      - Has more criminals than any other country and put a larger percent of it's population behind bars than any other country.
      - Has a cruel and barbaric justice system
      - Has a completly corrupt and criminal political system
      - Has more poverty than any other 1st world country
      - Has an increasingly horrible education system
      - Have their own world history which differs quite a bit from the history that the rest of the world knows.
      - Indoctrinates it's people about the same as old Soviet Union did and about the same as todays North Korea and China.

      I cpuld go on and on about these things but I'll stop here. Now I will be labeled as a USA hater, when it is the opposite. I actually love USA enough to care about what it does and how it is conceived around the world. If you hate USA, the current course if fine and you really don't have to say anything, just continue to support it's actions. That is hating USA when you really don't care what the rest of the world thinks.
      • and an irrational fear of socialisme. and everyone does have an ID card, be it a SSN, a drivers license or a draftnumber. Yes, yes, it is not an ID card, because it's not federal. Yeah right. and, the most horrible thing of all, a culture of fear.
      • Now I will be labeled as a USA hater, when it is the opposite.

        You can love your country and hate the current administration. There is no conflict between those positions.

    • Uh, your desire to emigrate was based on Hollywood movies, and you have no sense of what it's like to live life in America as an American. The reality is quite different. I myself have been abroad for the better part of 3 years, and every day is a breath of fresh air.
      • Uh, your desire to emigrate was based on Hollywood movie
        In part, yes. But it was also because I wanted to be a scientist and do research. I saw the USA as the place to be for a scientist.
        I saw America as the land of the free, when you could develop yourself to the fullest. Where research was done. Where the technology was invented and created. I knew that in previous times, France and Germany were the scientific forerunners, but that the states had taken over.
        Today, I am a scientist, but I wouldn't wan
    • Re:Tourisme (Score:2, Insightful)

      by adsl (595429)
      What makes you think that your own country does not collect personal data also?
  • by Chickenofbristol55 (884806) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:43PM (#13964506) Homepage
    Double edged sword.

    One the one hand it's useful, but on the other it contradicts our constitutuion. Man I love polidicks[sic].

  • by fuzzy12345 (745891) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:45PM (#13964522)
    Langley, Fort Meade, and Washington D.C.

    Did you guys really vote for all this, um, stuff? Take your country back.

    • The thing is... (Score:3, Insightful)

      Vegas is probably the most surveilled city in the U.S. Keeping rental car records and hotel receipts pales in comparison to the information stored by the casinos. What's frightening is that the government collecting such information about ordinary Americans doesn't amount to much on its own in terms of fighting terrorism, but it would offer unscrupulous feds a convenient database of information for blackmail purposes (as well as for a variety of investigations, both legal and illegal). A call by the feds
    • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @07:04PM (#13965386)
      >Did you guys really vote for all this, um, stuff? Take your country back.

      Do you really think the average voter has any idea what a national security letter might be and if they did the proper checks and balances such a thing would need. Or if they are even aware of the big privacy debate going on? They don't. During the last election, from what I was told first hand, people voted on:

      1. Terrorism: Usually "Bush will teach them 'Rabs" kind of attitude.
      2. Gay marriage: This was surprisingly everywhere before the election and no where now. Funny how that works.
      3. Abortion: The usual crap here.
      4. Vietnam: Kerry's status as a vet opened up the old vietnam wounds.

      Only political junkies cared about privacy, civil rights, economic stability, social security, judge appointments, etc.

      I don't think most countries are too different, the LCD tend to vote on hot button issues and the educated and elitist classes take on everything else. Asking "Did you people really vote for this stuff" is kinda non-starter. People don't even vote on this stuff, they vote for what they know.

      Essentially this is your classic "raise the discourse" argument, but one of the nice things of being at the top of the world as a superpower in about a dozen different ways is that there's little incentive to learn about foreign policy, civil issues, other countries, other systems, etc. As long as there is wealth and safety one can remain fairly ignorant of a lot of things. This eventually does bite one in the ass and will probably coincide with the loss of a superpower status as Europe and Asia keep rising.
  • Sarcasm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:49PM (#13964536) Homepage Journal
    When we have sensible Supreme Court justices installed, who understand we're at war with an ideology that will never die, national security rules by the president will never be subverted by the meddlesome Congress. Or the people, who don't know enough about security intelligence to keep ourselves safe by electing Congressmembers. We need more justices like Roberts who insist on the privilege of the president to keep us safe, and out of the danger of risky "due process". Too bad we can't get Miers back, who saw the towering intelligence of our current defender. But Alito's committment to the security power of the supreme executive should keep us perfectly safe.
  • uuugh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by seabreezemm (577723) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:56PM (#13964584)
    Welcome to Amerika, please surrender your rights here!
  • by the_skywise (189793) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:57PM (#13964593)
    My credit card company!

    Which I used to rent the car, purchase the plane tickets and secure my rental garages.

    They also know where I live, my phone # and my mother's maiden name!
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:57PM (#13964596) Journal
    Only criminals will go to the trouble to avoid being caught in such a web of information collection, leaving innocent private citizens as the only victims in this process.

    Like is said for gun control laws, if you outlaw it, only the criminals will have it. This sort of crap will ensure that only criminals are outside of the jurisdiction of legal daily surveilance, thus achieving nothing but ill will and a semi-police state.

    If you think this is a troll, try again... When the government invents a reason to spy on you without your permission or that of the courts, they have found a way to be the big brother that we all despise and fear. Never mind tin-foil hats, when they know what you had for breakfast without having to lift a finger, the tin-foil hat does no good.

    How long will it be before it is made illegal to thwart such efforts by use of misleading electronic activities, and botnets that spoil the information gathered with false information and misleading information. How long before identity theft is not the real problem, but being accused of anti-american activities is the problem because of clever botnets that have seeded the government databases with information about you and your activities?

    Where is the oversight to stop the government from doing that, then arresting you on trumped up charges based on bad information... damn, the US started an entire war on bad information...

    FSCK, this is bad!
  • Who can complain? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DeadVulcan (182139) <(dead.vulcan) (at) (pobox.com)> on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:58PM (#13964602)

    ...the mere existence of an NSL is secret, so it's not clear how anyone can complain!

    There's an easy solution.

    Everyone should complain.

    • There's an easy solution.
      Everyone should complain.


      I had the same thought...

      Let's see how much they want to keep abusing this power if, once a year, they get 250 million requests for mediation!

      Of course, sadly, in reality only a few of us "paranoids" will bother to complain, and rather than taking us out of their records for not having committed any crimes, it will simply red-flag us for further scrutiny...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:58PM (#13964607)
    I recall posts from about 7 years ago where our American brethren would profusely claim such laws would (could) never exist in the U.S., and it was kind of comforting to know such a human-rights haven existed (contrast: we don't have a bill of rights in Australia).

    But it's frightening how Uncle Sam has managed to sidestep such safeguards in the name of "national security".

    I shake my head in disgust when I think of the governments trouncing basic rights to protect us against a threat that claims as many people per decade as cancer does in one day !!
    • When someone drops dead of cancer it's their family's problem. No one who dies of cancer does so in a fiery ball that destroys a Billion dollars worth of infrastructure.

      It doesn't matter how many people die. What matters is how much money it costs us in the process. It's always about the money.
      • by ceejayoz (567949)
        No one who dies of cancer does so in a fiery ball that destroys a Billion dollars worth of infrastructure.

        No, but when you add up the $100,000+ treatment costs of the millions of uninsured Americans who do get cancer that the government pays... well, guess what? Billions of dollars.
        • Re:this isn't cancer (Score:5, Interesting)

          by rkcallaghan (858110) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @07:36PM (#13965522)
          No, but when you add up the $100,000+ treatment costs of the millions of uninsured Americans who do get cancer that the government pays... well, guess what? Billions of dollars.

          I am a full time student and uninsured. I pay my taxes, in full, on time, every year. I am an American Citizen and have been for all of my 25 years on this earth. I have no criminal record of any kind.

          My foot is currently broken, and I believe I have established that I am both 'uninsured' and an 'American' (one in good standing, too). I do not have the resources to pay for X-Rays, Doctors, a Cast, or possible therapy. How can I get the government to pay for my treatment?

          Oh yea, I can't, because we're the only country in the world where our government sponsored healthcare only helps non-Americans, such as illegal immigrants and Iraqis. I've tried, I can't get shit for myself. I would be more than happy for you to prove me wrong, because a cast really would be nice.

          ~Rebecca
      • No one who dies of cancer does so in a fiery ball that destroys a Billion dollars worth of infrastructure.

        Meh, that's a weak argument - saying that special measures are needed to combat terrorism because they blew up the WTC ignores the fact that, for all the spectacle they caused, they didn't really kill that many people, and had as much effect as a bad ice storm or a F3 hurricane (which we get a few of each year anyway). It also ignores the fact that the new measures are fairly ineffective at their sta

  • Newsy (Score:3, Informative)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:00PM (#13964618) Homepage Journal
    Hey, where's the poster complaining that this FBI privacy invasion story isn't "News for Nerds"? Are nerds finally starting to find a consensus that they're just like everyone else, and "News for Police State Residents" is also news for them, too? Maybe those nerds who have always realized that security/privacy is nerdy will finally get recognition, if only from other nerds... nah, nerds are no good at that kind of social awareness.
  • by ibn_khaldun (814417) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:02PM (#13964630)
    I'm not sure how reassuring this is, but keep in mind that most reports indicate that the FBI is fabulously inept at analyzing the information that they have already, and this is merely going to further overwhelm them. To be sure, there are genuine civil liberties issues here, but I'd be far more concerned if they were investing the same resources doing things the old-fashioned way (infiltrating groups, hanging out taking notes, reading mail, tapping phones, etc)
    • What exactly do you think the NSA is for?

      Thats what they do. And now without silly rules to prevent data sharing, they will have free-reign.

      Remember, the NSA gets more money than the FBI and CIA. With their powers combined, they can rule the planet!

      Or just make the average citizens life horrible. You pick.
    • but I'd be far more concerned if they were investing the same resources doing things the old-fashioned way (infiltrating groups, hanging out taking notes, reading mail, tapping phones, etc)
      What are you smoking?! If they were doing things the "old-fashioned way" they'd have a court order, and would be infiltrating actual criminals instead of just "any citizen who visited Las Vegas"!
    • It would seem that if they cannot sift through the information that efficiently, then it will simply make it easier for real criminals to hide in all the noise.
  • Want to fix it? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by imunfair (877689) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:03PM (#13964638) Homepage
    Well, in today's present society the first step would be to automate voting, and get rid of the electorate delegates - that would ensure the majority actually does rule (assuming the techonology is implemented correctly).

    Second step would be (this I'm sort of deriving from an article I read) - to send the senators and representatives home, and allow them to use video conferencing instead. I think this would allow more "real" people to eventually get elected - and be *willing* to get elected, since they wouldn't have to move out of their home towns - leaving friends, family, and a sense of what's going on locally in their state behind them.

    On certain issues you could also institute country wide referendums. More technical issues would have to be decided by the senate/house - which is why electing competent people would still be important.

    Last but not least, it might be a good idea to make being a senator/representative a part time job, and let them keep their day jobs. That would keep them in touch with daily life, and also effectively curb the amount of useless legislation that's passed each year. (Along with mitigating the effects of lobbyists - since they wouldn't fear losing their jobs, they would merely be doing a service for their country.)

    Oh, and term limits might also fit into that plan quite well to enforce the idea that "this is not your permanent job".

    Not that the scenario will ever happen in my lifetime without a nation-wide catastrophy or revolt, but it doesn't hurt to throw the ideas out there.
    • Fixing Gov't (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Create an Account (841457) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:36PM (#13964842)
      - that would ensure the majority actually does rule (assuming the techonology is implemented correctly)

      I'm not sure we want the majority to rule. The purpose of a democratic republic is to seat a group of informed representaives.

      make being a senator/representative a part time job, and let them keep their day jobs.

      Nah. People pay attention to where their bowl of rice is coming from. We don't want them paying less attention to their senator/representative job than they already do. This would make them (if possible) even more susceptible to bribes and lobbying.

      term limits might also fit into that plan quite well

      I object to term limits because imagine you have really good representation, a really good, effective member. Couple years, bang! He's fired. Someone new comes in, probably not as good as what you had. I know it's hard to imagine now, but let's don't force good people out of office.

      I think a better start would be to revoke the corporation's right to free speech, and forbid them from contributing to campaigns. Period. Corporations are not people and do not act like people, so we should not let them drive our elections. They are far too able to throw large volumes of cash at election campaigns. They have too much say over how we are governed.

      I also think we should try really hard to break up the power structures in the two big parties. There is such a huge interlocking collection of debts and favors controlling who gets to be a nominee that it is (usually) impossible for anyone fresh and different to get on the ticket. Does anyone really believe that there is nobody in the Republican Party better qualified to lead the US than George W.? Neither party puts forward their best candidate anymore. They put forward the one who best manipulates the existing power structure.

      • ... the majority is stupid. Plus 50% of the general populace didn't vote for the last election, and that's a once every 4 years occurance, what makes you think people will care about the little stuff?

        The current system works, the problem is people don't pay enough atttention when they are electing their representattives.

        -everphilski-
        • Well, if I recall, in the 2000 election Bush and Gore both got about 53,000,000 votes. That's 106M voters. Figure another 10M for third parties, and we're looking at 115M voters out of a population of 300M.

          Of course, with a 75-80 year life span, we can assume that ~25% of those can't vote, leaving 225M voters.

          Slightly more than half.

          One problem with the party system, though: people don't know about other parties. Even without media coverage, the Libertarian Party got on average 2% of the vote last election.
    • Well, in today's present society the first step would be to automate voting, and get rid of the electorate delegates - that would ensure the majority actually does rule (assuming the techonology is implemented correctly).

      Are you crazy?! The "majority" consists of hysterical, bible-thumping idiots! If we had true majority rule, we would have voted ourselves a police state as soon as we saw the footage of the planes hitting the towers on TV.

      In fact, I'd say the reason we've come so close anyway is that we

    • A system that works in Canada is that if your party doesn't win, you still get to have a few seats in parliament if you won any jurisdictions at all. I think that it would have a profound effect in the states, where there are "Red" and "Blue" states. The states that end up voting for the losing part get 4 years of not having their voice heard. In Canada, if your area votes in the losing party, your representative still gets to sit in parliament and speak their views.
  • looking closer... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xeoron (639412) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:03PM (#13964647) Homepage
    I think the submitter missed an important part of the article, which is this quote[ ...In late 2003, the Bush administration reversed a long-standing policy requiring agents to destroy their files on innocent American citizens, companies and residents when investigations closed. Late last month, President Bush signed Executive Order 13388, expanding access to those files for "state, local and tribal" governments and for "appropriate private sector entities," which are not defined. ...]

    This lack of respect to privacy is troubling....

    • These "appropriate private sector entities" could easily be taken to mean "private" places, like homes of suspects. Mod Parent Insightful® etc.
    • Forget Bin Laden! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Elrac (314784) <carl@noSPaM.smotricz.com> on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:47PM (#13964922) Homepage Journal
      GWB and his administration are the most dangerous threat that the Constitution and the American Way of Life have faced in the past century, easily topping even McCarthy.

      To quote one 'Madpride' from another board:
      Somebody hurry up and give George Bush a blowjob so we can impeach his worthless ass!
    • But, wait, wait, wait, wait....

      ... the Bush administration obviously has quite a bit of respect for privacy. After all they worked very, very hard to protect the privacy of Harriet Miers work.

      And, after all, that privacy represented the privacy of every american taxpayer who paid taxes to support Miers in doing this, so by keeping all that information secret, they were helping out each and every person's individual privacy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:06PM (#13964666)
    And I thought the FBI was wasting time on porn cases and such, but the waste of time and effort that must of gone into that vegas data mining with such a wide net was epic. What could they hope to have found, considering the FBI hasn't managed to handle their other low level basic database problems so well. And considering all these false alarms they get as they roust people all over the world. Our street-level intelligence is truly clueless and out of touch and adding the epic waste of mass data mining is surely going to have the FBI chasing ghosts as our freedoms erode.
  • Stasi (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:27PM (#13964785)
    Wow, does remind me about horrible stories about spying on the people by the Stasi in East Berlin.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stasi [wikipedia.org]

    • Yes, they have the Stasi^WFBI. The next step is to build a wall:
      http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/paperchase/2005/11/us-r epublicans-propose-mexican-border.php [pitt.edu]

      Sig Heil!

  • Article Text (Score:4, Informative)

    by Clockwurk (577966) * on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:52PM (#13964952) Homepage
    The FBI came calling in Windsor, Conn., this summer with a document marked for delivery by hand. On Matianuk Avenue, across from the tennis courts, two special agents found their man. They gave George Christian the letter, which warned him to tell no one, ever, what it said.

    Under the shield and stars of the FBI crest, the letter directed Christian to surrender "all subscriber information, billing information and access logs of any person" who used a specific computer at a library branch some distance away. Christian, who manages digital records for three dozen Connecticut libraries, said in an affidavit that he configures his system for privacy. But the vendors of the software he operates said their databases can reveal the Web sites that visitors browse, the e-mail accounts they open and the books they borrow.

    Christian refused to hand over those records, and his employer, Library Connection Inc., filed suit for the right to protest the FBI demand in public. The Washington Post established their identities -- still under seal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit -- by comparing unsealed portions of the file with public records and information gleaned from people who had no knowledge of the FBI demand.

    The Connecticut case affords a rare glimpse of an exponentially growing practice of domestic surveillance under the USA Patriot Act, which marked its fourth anniversary on Oct. 26. "National security letters," created in the 1970s for espionage and terrorism investigations, originated as narrow exceptions in consumer privacy law, enabling the FBI to review in secret the customer records of suspected foreign agents. The Patriot Act, and Bush administration guidelines for its use, transformed those letters by permitting clandestine scrutiny of U.S. residents and visitors who are not alleged to be terrorists or spies.

    The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters -- one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people -- are extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans.

    Issued by FBI field supervisors, national security letters do not need the imprimatur of a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. They receive no review after the fact by the Justice Department or Congress. The executive branch maintains only statistics, which are incomplete and confined to classified reports. The Bush administration defeated legislation and a lawsuit to require a public accounting, and has offered no example in which the use of a national security letter helped disrupt a terrorist plot.

    The burgeoning use of national security letters coincides with an unannounced decision to deposit all the information they yield into government data banks -- and to share those private records widely, in the federal government and beyond. In late 2003, the Bush administration reversed a long-standing policy requiring agents to destroy their files on innocent American citizens, companies and residents when investigations closed. Late last month, President Bush signed Executive Order 13388, expanding access to those files for "state, local and tribal" governments and for "appropriate private sector entities," which are not defined.

    National security letters offer a case study of the impact of the Patriot Act outside the spotlight of political debate. Drafted in haste after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the law's 132 pages wrought scores of changes in the landscape of intelligence and law enforcement. Many received far more attention than the amendments to a seemingly pedestrian power to review "transactional records." But few if any other provisions touch as many ordinary Americans without their knowledge.

    Senior FBI officials acknowledged in interviews that the proliferation of national security letters results primarily from the bureau's new authority to collect intimate facts about people who a
  • "There's an ombudsman, and a procedure to resolve complaints, but the mere existence of an NSL is secret, so it's not clear how anyone can complain!"

    I eventually had to go down to the cellar. With a torch. The notice was on display at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "beware of the leopard".
  • by alphorn (667624) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @06:12PM (#13965057)
    In the last ten years, traffic has killed about 400.000 Americans. Terrorism has killed less than 4.000. I'm still amazed how the American public is prepared the give up all kinds of civil liberties just to fight the risk that is 100 times smaller, not to mention that the success chances are doubtful. Accepting a small - tiny! - terrorism threat is a small price to pay for a free society.
    • It's simple -- Americans like cars, and they hate other cultures. The 4000 deaths are just an excuse.
    • The fear of having a traffic accident is one that many have faced successfully; the fear of being a victim of a terrorist attack is one that very few have faced.

      Of course, once you realize that it's just as likely for somebody to walk down the street and gun you down for no reason, you get a little perspective.

      The only way to beat fear is to confront the fear; hiding from the feared thing only makes it worse.
    • by ChePibe (882378) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @07:22PM (#13965455)
      The traffic accidents of which you speak did not:

      1) Cause billions of dollars of damage in less than an hour's time and shut down an entire industry for days.

      2) Generally result from malicious intent from people who have declared they will not be happy until millions of Americans are dead

      3) Paralyze an entire nation's ability to move people and goods

      4) Happen as the result of an accident

      Also, please provide a source for your 400,000 dead in past four years statistic. Statistics I've found from 1998 say around 49,000 died in North America from car accidents that year. Sounds like you're pulling your numbers out of thin air.
      • 1) Cause billions of dollars of damage in less than an hour's time and shut down an entire industry for days.

        The destruction in NYC was paltry compared to the ongoing expenditure fighting the "war on terror".

        2) Generally result from malicious intent from people who have declared they will not be happy until millions of Americans are dead

        Sure, but the point being made by the previous poster was that their ability to do that is not especially strong, and the "intelligence" services are not exactly adept at pr
      • in case you might've missed it, the OP said 400,000 over the last ten years... which about fits with 49,000 in 1998...

        and re: 3) Paralyze an entire nation's ability to move people and goods

        I was stuck in Toronto after 9/11, and I sure would've liked to be able to get home to Denver, I'm still baffled as to why air travel was stopped. I mean, Al Queda took their best shot, flying airliners into structures, and I'm sure they were thinking they'd get a whole lot more than they did. America freaks, acts like
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @06:12PM (#13965061) Homepage
    So far, the first court ruling [steptoe.com] indicates that National Security Letters are unenforceable and that the law authorizing them is unconstitutional. The Government is appealing, and the case was heard by the Second Circuit this fall. A decision is pending.

    If you receive one, you need to get legal advice before complying.

    The proposed legislation to criminalize NSL noncompliance, S.1680, has no cosponsors and isn't going anywhere.

    The FBI can still go before a judge and get a subpoena, but that requires judicial authorization, and you can fight a subpoena in court if it's overreaching.

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@@@mac...com> on Sunday November 06, 2005 @06:20PM (#13965122) Journal
    This kind of thing is very clearly illegal under the fourth and fifth amendments. The lesson here, is that the constitution is no guarantee of our liberty. Freedon ultimately depends on the will of people to demand and enforce limits on government's continuous attempts to expand its power.

    This will go on until someone who is presented with a "national security letter" says, "Fuck you, get a warrant", and is preparted to fight the case all the way to the supreme court.

    -jcr
  • by Elrac (314784) <carl@noSPaM.smotricz.com> on Sunday November 06, 2005 @06:40PM (#13965225) Homepage Journal
    1. Make prostitution and the solicitation thereof illegal everywhere except in one state
    2. Keep complete records of the activities of everyone who goes to that state
    3. Have records on hand to blackmail anyone who wants to get his rocks off safely, legally and without emotional issues
    4. Take your pick of:
      • Political ammunition
      • Criminalization
      • Slander;
        or that all-time favorite,
      • Profit!
  • - Yellow road signs - Marriage fidelity - Nutrition information on the label - The 10 Commandments - Speed limits ...merely "suggestions"
  • by jmichaelg (148257) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @08:20PM (#13965823) Journal
    Before folks get all riled up just remember, there is a limit here. Heck, F.B.I uses three letters and NSL uses another three leaving a total of 20. At the rate they're going, they'll be out of letters in no time at all.

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