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August 2022


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Tag: national security letters

Federal Appeals Court Approves FBI’s National Security Letter Gag Orders

Data securityBy Steve Neavling

The FBI’s use of gag orders to prevent companies from disclosing the number and details of national security letters does not run afoul of the First Amendment, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

The three-judge panel found that gag orders protect national security and therefore do not violate the companies’ constitutional rights, the Washington Times reports

The ruling means that the FBI can continue issuing thousands of gag orders a year prohibiting recipients from disclosing their existence.

NSLs require communication providers to reveal customer records, and the FBI has argued that disclosing the information could compromise national security. 

The case stems from a lawsuit filed against the Justice Department by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represented two NSL recipients that wanted to notify their users about orders compelling the disclosure of customer data. 

Senate Republicans Want to Broaden FBI’s Surveillance After Orlando Shooting

US CapitolBy Steve Neavling

In response to the mass shooting in the Orlando nightclub, Senate Republicans are proposing to expand the FBI’s authority to use surveillance without a warrant.

The measure would allow agents to access email metadata and some browsing history information without a warrant, Reuters reports. 

“In the wake of the tragic massacre in Orlando, it is important our law enforcement have the tools they need to conduct counterterrorism investigations,” Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and sponsor of the amendment, said in a statement.

Despite the concerns of Republicans, they failed to pass gun-control measures on Monday.

Privacy advocates charge the surveillance measure exploits the mass shooting to expand spying powers.

The idea is to give the FBI more options to use so-called National Security Letters.

Other Stories of Interest

2 Senators Criticize Bill That Would Expand FBI’s Warrantless Access to Online Records

computer-photoBy Steve Neavling

A new bill would give the FBI more flexibility to gain warrantless access to online records of Americans.

Two U.S. senators have criticized the 2017 intelligence authorization bill as an overreach that could make it easier for federal investigators to use National Security Letters to access email records, messaging accounts, login records, browser history and social media activity, the Guardian reports. 

Although the text of the bill hasn’t be discloed yet, Sen. Ron Wyden said the change represents a sweeping expansion of warrantless surveillance.

“While this bill does not clearly define ‘electronic communication transaction records’, this term could easily be read to encompass records of whom individuals exchange emails with and when, as well as their login history, IP addresses, and internet browsing history,” Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon who voted against the bill, told the Guardian.

Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico said he hope to remove the NSL expansion on the bill.

“The FBI has not made a convincing case that it needs any process other than the one that already exists, especially one that freely allows the FBI access to law-abiding Americans’ emails and web activity,” Henrich said.

Judge Upholds FBI’s Right to Keep ‘National Security Letters’ a Secret

courtroomBy Steve Neavling

The FBI can continue to keep “national security letters” secret after issuing them to demand customer records from phone companies, banks and others, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. 

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ruled the letters don’t violate freedom of speech and are permitted after Congress passed the USA Freedom Act last year.

Illston said government showed the need to keep confidential three of the four letters issued to unidentified technology companies in 2011 and 2013. The fourth letter won’t be disclosed pending a government appeal.

Recipients of national security letters “still can be gagged at the FBI’s say-so, without any procedural protections, time limits or judicial oversight,” said attorney Andrew Crocker of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

FBI to Allow Companies to Reveal When They Receive National Security Letters

By Steve Neavling

Companies like Google and Microsoft have long expressed frustration with the inability to disclose when they’ve received a secretive compliance order from the FBI seeking records.

Under a new FBI policy, companies will be able to disclose the “national security letters,” but only “at the earlier of three years after the opening of a fully predicated investigation or the investigation’s close,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

Until now, the FBI has been able to obtain telephone, banking and Internet company records without a court order, and the company was legally prevented from disclosing bureau’s order.

The changes are part of President Obama’s call to reform surveillance practices and data collection.

Federal Appeals Court to Decide Whether FBI’s National Security Letters Are Constitutional

By Steve Neavling

A federal appeals court is expected to decide soon whether the FBI’s “national security letters” are constitutional, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

The letters are a demand for customer information in terrorism-related cases, allowing the FBI to obtain information without a warrant.

San Francisco U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ruled last year that the letters violate the First Amendment because they prohibit recipients from disclosing that they’ve received one.

The 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals is reviewing the case.

“The gag order says you not only have to turn over the information, but you can’t complain about it,” said UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh.

Government Watchdog: FBI Spies on Wrong Americans Because of Routine Typography Errors

Steve Neavling

The FBI has unintentionally spied on Americans who were not the targets of investigations because of routine, avoidable mistakes, the National Journal reports.

The Justice Department’s inspector general discovered that the FBI sometimes collected data on the wrong people because of typographical errors.

“We found that the FBI’s corrective measures have not completely eliminated potential intelligence violations resulting from typographical errors in the identification of a telephone number, email address, or social security number in an NSL,” the report reads. “These typographical errors cause the FBI to request and, in some instances receive, the information of someone other than the intended target of the NSL.”

Despite those problems, the inspector general concluded that the FBI is doing a better job handling national security letters.

Internet Companies Call For More Disclosure of Surveillance

Steve Neavling

Microsoft, Twitter, Google and Facebook are calling for more disclosure of secret requests to hand over date of users, The Guardian reports.

“Permitting greater transparency on the aggregate volume and scope of national security requests, including Fisa orders, would help the community understand and debate these important issues,” Microsoft said in an emailed statement.

The federal government issues national security letters to demand access to computer data.

It’s currently against the law to disclose how many secret requests were turned over under the controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.