ACLU Obtains Documents Showing Expanded Military Role in National Security Letters

The ACLU has obtained a new set of documents showing the military's expanded role since the passage of the Patriot Act in obtaining national security letters.

New documents uncovered as a result of an American Civil Liberties Union and New York Civil Liberties Union lawsuit reveal that the Department of Defense secretly issued hundreds of national security letters (NSLs) to obtain private and sensitive records of people within the United States without court approval. A comprehensive analysis of 455 NSLs issued after 9/11 shows that the Defense Department seems to have collaborated with the FBI to circumvent the law, may have overstepped its legal authority to obtain financial and credit records, provided misleading information to Congress, and silenced NSL recipients from speaking out about the records requests, according to the ACLU.

The new documents are available here. Many are blacked out (redacted.) The documents include e-mail correspondence between DOD officials responding to the disclosure of the NSL's in the New York Times. I've extracted one e-mail here (pdf).

Also extracted:

  • DOD memo (pdf)on its authority to issue NSL letters apart from the FBI
  • DOD Guidance (pdf)on obtaining information from financial institutions


As to what it means, the ACLU says:

Once again, the Bush administration's unchecked authority has led to abuse and civil liberties violations," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "The documents make clear that the Department of Defense may have secretly and illegally conducted surveillance beyond the powers it was granted by Congress. It also appears as if the FBI is serving as a lackey for the DoD in misusing the Patriot Act powers. At the very least, it certainly looks like the FBI and DoD are conspiring to evade limits placed on the Department of Defense's surveillance powers."

...."The expanded role of the military in domestic intelligence gathering is troubling. These documents reveal that the military is gaining access to records here in the U.S. – in secret and without any meaningful oversight," said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project. "There are real concerns about the use of this intrusive surveillance power."

If you're new to the issue of NSL's:

NSLs are secretly issued by the government to obtain access to personal customer records from Internet service providers, financial institutions, and credit reporting agencies. In almost all cases, recipients of the NSLs are forbidden, or "gagged," from disclosing that they have received the letters. While the FBI has broad NSL powers and compliance with FBI-issued NSLs is mandatory, the Defense Department's NSL power is more limited in scope, and, in most cases, compliance with Defense Department demands is not mandatory.

Background: The FBI is Spying on You and Me.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Lemme check my crystal ball (none / 0) (#1)
    by scarshapedstar on Sun Oct 14, 2007 at 11:00:48 AM EST
    "Nobody could have anticipated... a few bad apples... policy was unclear... internal investigation reveals no intentional wrongdoing."

    I hate these people.