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Government United States

FBI Issued 19,000 National Security Letters In 2013 61

Trailrunner7 writes The United States federal government issued more than 19,000 National Security Letters – perhaps its most powerful tool for domestic intelligence collection – in 2013, and those NSLs contained more than 38,000 individual requests for information. The new data was released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Friday as part of its effort to comply with a directive from President Obama to declassify and release as much information as possible about a variety of tools that the government uses to collect intelligence. The directive came in the immediate aftermath of the first revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the agency's capabilities, methods and use of legal authorities.

The use of NSLs is far from new, dating back several decades. But their use was expanded greatly after 9/11 and NSLs are different from other tools in a number of ways, perhaps most importantly in the fact that recipients typically are prohibited from even disclosing the fact that they received an NSL. Successfully fighting an NSL is a rare thing, and privacy advocates have been after the government for years to release data on their use of the letters and the number of NSLs issued. Now, the ODNI is putting some of that information into the public record."
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FBI Issued 19,000 National Security Letters In 2013

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  • So that is why they are slow, or completely worthless on my FOIA requests. They are busy sending NSLs to everybody under the sun instead of opening up a filing cabinet and hitting the scanner.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2014 @06:50PM (#47337291)

      19,000? Sounds like they're not doing a very good job securing our nation if they need that many, because it's proof that either we have terrorists on every street corner or they don't know what they're doing and therefore don't know where the terrorists are.

      Before anybody replies, yes, I know what this is really proof of unfortunately.

      • Well, it is the FBI and not the NSA. The NSA just spies on everyone, the FBI has to actually ink some words to a piece of paper. At least they can skip the court process so you will remain safe and not free.

      • To the FBI, we are all unconfirmed terrorists.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )

      So fuck the FCC
      Fuck the FBI
      Fuck the CIA
      Livin' in the motherfuckin' USA

      --Steve Earle

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2014 @06:35PM (#47337173)

    Secret warrants you can't challenge are the same as not needing one at all.

    • NSLs should be made illegal

      Well, you need to elect people who will make it so. The majority has spoken, and despite what mass media says, they approve.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, a lot of people hoped for change and they got it; things are now even worse.

      • by NoKaOi ( 1415755 ) on Friday June 27, 2014 @09:17PM (#47338151)

        NSLs should be made illegal

        They already are:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F... [wikipedia.org]

        Note the bit about probable cause and due process (which means getting a proper warrant supported by an affidavit). I was looking for the part that said "except where such person is suspected of terrorism," but just couldn't find it. And even if it was there, 19,000 terrorists, holy shit we're all DOOMED!!!!

        • They already are.

          This. Each an every NSL needs to be challenged.

          • This. Each an every NSL needs to be challenged.

            The guy behind Lavabit tried. Look how far that got him. The government effectively denied him the right to have a lawyer. Good luck representing yourself against government lawyers.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          19,000 thats just the idiots driving the 'fuck beta' campaign. The real terrrorist watch list in short form is evey one in the US that dosnt work for a 3 letter government Agency.

          The actual list is that plus everyone else in the world but americans are happy with the second part so thats all right. You get the government you deserve.

        • 19,000 terrorists, holy shit we're all DOOMED!!!!

          That doesn't sound right - there must be more than just 19,000 members of the NSA, CIA, FBI, Congress, and President.

    • why would you need to challenge them if you won't even know they are served?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2014 @06:37PM (#47337185)

    Be aware that, NSLs and FISA request are the same thing, go figure, so by releasing the number of NSLs they are at the same time hiding the number of FISA request which could be any number


    Foreign Intelligence Surveillence Act (FISA) requests are court orders that can require U.S. companies to hand over personal information in national security investigations.

    National Security Letters (NSLs) are requests authorized by the FBI that can require U.S. companies to hand over "the name, address, length of service, and local and long distance toll billing records" of a subscriber for use in national security investigations. They don't require a court order and cannot be used to obtain anything else from Google, such as Gmail content, search queries, YouTube videos or user IP addresses.

    This legal jargon only servers the purpose of turning any rational conversation about it into a buzzword fight.

    The reality is there are several types of secret court orders sent to individuals and cloud services companies. And there is one kind of secret order that is so secret we know nothing about, not even its quantity.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      TYPO: NSLs and FISA request are **NOT** the same thing

      I saved this pic from a previous "transparency report"


    • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Friday June 27, 2014 @07:04PM (#47337403) Journal
      A few details did slip out over the years via the "Connecticut Four" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] and others who went to open courts.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05... [nytimes.com]
      http://www.americanlibrariesma... [americanli...gazine.org]
      National Security Letters (January 10, 2011)
      https://www.aclu.org/national-... [aclu.org]
      "...web sites a person visits, a list of e-mail addresses with which a person has corresponded, or even unmask the identity of a person who has posted anonymous speech on a political website."
      " provision also allows the FBI to forbid or "gag" anyone who receives an NSL from telling anyone about the record demand. "
      FBI Withdraws Unconstitutional National Security Letter After ACLU and EFF Challenge (May 7, 2008)
      https://www.eff.org/press/arch... [eff.org]
      "a digital library recognized by the state of California -- and its attorneys in November of 2007. The letter asked for personal information about one of the Archive's users, including the individual's name, address, and any electronic communication transactional records pertaining to the user."
      FBI Backs Off From Secret Order for Data After Lawsuit (May 8, 2008)
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/... [washingtonpost.com]
    • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Friday June 27, 2014 @08:02PM (#47337757)

      Everyone should know with absolute certainty that there are NOT 19,000 investigations of terrorism or threats to national security going on. This is evident proof that National security letters are not being used for national security.

      The powers of the FBI and other federal law enforcement should be curtailed, NSL's are ripe for abuse of power.

    • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Friday June 27, 2014 @10:30PM (#47338457) Journal

      Be aware that, NSLs and FISA request are the same thing, go figure, so by releasing the number of NSLs they are at the same time hiding the number of FISA request which could be any number

      Actually, no they are not. If you add the FISA requests, it jumps by almost 2000 more. The FISA requests represented there are the warrantless "probable cause" uses where a FISA warrant is not gotten first. FISA is typically handled outside the FBI which is what the 19,000 number is supposed to represent.

      http://icontherecord.tumblr.co... [tumblr.com]

      NSL letters are not secret court orders. They are extrajudicial orders for records information kept by businesses. The FISA orders can actually do more then that and actually intercept communications but only for a limited time before a FISA warrant is needed and a FISA warrant is needed before the information is supposed to be legally used in a case. You can find more about the FISA orders issues with it's annual reports to congress. Just select the reports then the year.

      http://fas.org/irp/agency/doj/... [fas.org]

      It should be noted that if no US person is involved or likely to be involved, no warrant is actually needed in the surveillance according to FISA. So the numbers should only reflect where it is possible that a US citizen is somehow part of the target for the FISA order.

  • Civil Disobedience (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2014 @06:57PM (#47337349)

    If ever there was a time for massive civil disobedience, this is it. Organized, unified disclosure of NSL's would make clear that we refuse to be subjected to the tools of a totalitarian state. Regards, Anonymous Coward :|

    • I'll sign up to this program.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by strikethree ( 811449 )


      If ever there was a time for massive civil disobedience, this is it.... Regards, Anonymous Coward

      I will be right there next to you... erm, maybe. I will be right there next to someone anyways.

      It is kind of pointless to say, "rah rah rah! go civil disobedience" and then hide behind Anonymous Coward. I am sure the NSA already knows that strikethree is me.

      But yeah. You go with your bad self. Stand up (well, hide behind a keyboard and a hundred proxies) and tell The Man, "No more! I (whoever I might be) will not stand for this!"

      You just gotta love it. I could not even invent this shit.

  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Friday June 27, 2014 @07:09PM (#47337431)

    a blatant violation of the US Constitution.

    • Don't get excited about my post, Mr. FBI Man. You already have a file on me because I'm a liberal. Just find the file and increment the counter for the number of times I've pointed out the unwelcome obvious.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        because your a liberal? LOL seriously. With all thats going on with the IRS, all the crap directed constantly at the right, ( and the truely far left), ie, anyone who DOESN'T support obama.....and you think you as a LIBERAL are the one being watched? How about the "homeland security" shutting down anti-obama protests. PEACEFUL rallies. How about anyone who didn't like obama, on the right AND left, but still mostly on the right being harassed by the IRS so they couldn't effect the vote. And the best, magic c

        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          by Black Parrot ( 19622 )

          Learn a little history. They'll target conservative extremists, but they create files on liberals just for being liberal.

          IRS affair has nothing to do with the FBI. (Also, there is some indication that it's more Bengazi-style spin from the right than actual substance.)

          Obama has nothing to do with it.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Obama has nothing to do with it.

            Indeed, he's sitting on the sidelines, NOT DOING A THING ABOUT IT, smiling and waving.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Everyone has a "file". In the era of paper documentation that was actually a real file, but that was in the past. Currently the "file" is not a dossier. The "File" is a search capacity, which allows the searcher to have all the data about you pulled from all the databases. "Data" means emails, internet searches and postings, all internet activity plus all other non-internet activity, such as telephones calls, car movement and air travel, purchase activity etc.

        When there will be next NSA grilling in the con

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Let's see now: We're SO afraid of an imminent threat to nationa security that we must spy on U.S. citizens within the U.S. even in ways many believe are violations of the Constitution...... BUT we are POWERLESS to stop MILLIONS of unidentified people from slipping across our southern border and settling in the U.S. where they are blending-in and our big crony businesses and one of our political parties are absolutelty demanding these millions all be given amnesty and converted into citizens. So much for the

    • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Friday June 27, 2014 @10:52PM (#47338527) Homepage Journal

      The political issues concerning the border are just there to distract people like you from the actual reasons we have so many illegal immigrants, which is because the people in power want them employed here. The attention is focused on the border, and not on the number who entered legally but overstayed their visas, and definitely not on the fact that we only pretend to punish the actual source of illegal immigration, the people who employ them, intentionally and because they are cheap labor.

      • by Imrik ( 148191 )

        I still think the best way to stop illegal immigration is to give a citizenship to anyone that rats out their employer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2014 @07:54PM (#47337723)

    I ordered a few pounds of potassium perchlorate and various forms of aluminum power. That is enough to get you a letter from the US Justice Department. A nice letter reminding me that making, possessing, and using explosives are illegal without a permit.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Care to share the letter?

  • Got one so far. Snowden.
    There's gotta be more (???)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Seriously. This is all dog and pony show, all for appearance. FBI, CIA, DIA, DEA, DHS, fusion centers, TSA and all other thousands of agencies, both local and federal, have access to all the NSA (and not only NSA) spying, one way or another. If they do not have directly, there are indirect ways to get what is needed. Please keep in mind that all of the NSA own citizen spying contents is also shared with first and second tier "allies", including Israel and, in some instances Saudis. What we are hearing is th

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @11:07AM (#47340513)

    I thought those were credit card applications. I threw them all out, unopened.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments