ACLU Says FBI Guidelines Will Make Little Difference, Congress Must Impose Meaningful Oversight and Fix NSL Statute

April 18, 2007 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – Today the American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy groups met with FBI representatives to discuss new guidelines for internal controls concerning National Security Letters. The Inspector General of the Department of Justice recently issued a report on the FBI’s abuse of National Security Letters that detailed significant abuses of the FBI’s NSL powers. The FBI scheduled the meeting to inform civil rights and privacy experts and to alleviate fears about internal guidelines.

The following may be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“The fact is the FBI was given carte blanche to issue NSLs in the Patriot Act without any oversight. That flaw invites abuse and new guidelines will not fix that. After advice from their own lawyers, FBI supervisors continued sending so-called ‘exigent,’ or emergency, letters even though no emergency existed and they had no statutory authority for such letters. Even when someone is looking over its shoulder, the agency is flagrant in its contempt for guidelines or restrictions.

“The Patriot Act was rushed through Congress in the dead of night. The FBI abused the NSL statute when it thought no one was watching. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the FBI will begin following its new internal guidelines when our backs are turned in the future. Any unchecked authority is going to be abused – by this administration and administrations yet to come. You don’t rebuild a house on a rotten foundation – these laws need to be revisited and rewritten.”

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