FBI Search Abuses Could Number Thousands

NC State Case

A lawyer for NC State University declined the FBI's national security letter request and only complied with the FBI's information request after receiving a traditional grand jury subpoena.

The student has been cleared of any wrongdoing. The FBI reported the matter as an intelligence oversight violation in 2007, after the review of NSLs was conducted by the inspector general.

The report to the intelligence oversight board noted, "The FBI's request of a national security letter requesting educational records was in violation of the attorney general's guidelines for FBI national security investigations."

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union also filed a federal lawsuit against the FBI seeking additional records concerning the FBI's issuance of national security letters at the request of other government agencies, particularly the Department of Defense.

In February 2006, the FBI's office of general counsel established an NSL database to more accurately track the use of national security letters. Before the establishment of the databases FBI field offices and agents manually kept NSL requests on 3 x 5 index cards.

Tuesday's hearing focused on proposed legislation sponsored by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., to reform the FBI's use of national security letters.

"We need to bring the NSL authority in line with the Constitution, enhance checks and balances," Nadler said.

FBI Opposes Changes to Law

The FBI is opposed to the legislation. At the hearing FBI general counsel Caproni said, "Important to the consideration of any legislative changes are the many oversight and internal controls mechanisms that the FBI has established since the release of the IG's first report."

At the hearing David Kris, who served as associate deputy attorney general from 2000 to 2003, said that he supported going further than the proposed legislation.

"Congress should enact a single statute for providing national security subpoenas this would streamline and simplify current law," he said.

Bruce Fein, a former assistant attorney general during the Reagan administration, called for additional oversight requirements by Congress and was critical of the internal Justice Department reporting requirements: "These type of internal checks don't work. It's like a fox watching the chickens."

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