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We're The Enemies Of Our Own State!
Published: Wednesday April 2, 2008
ACLU obtains documents after suit over National Security Letters
The military is using the FBI to skirt legal restrictions on domestic surveillance to obtain private records of Americans' Internet service providers, financial institutions and telephone companies, according to Pentagon documents.
"Newly unredacted documents released today reveal that the Department of Defense is using the FBI to circumvent legal limits on its own NSL power," said the ACLU, whose lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court.
ACLU lawyer Melissa Goodman said the documents the civil rights group studied "make us incredibly concerned." She said it would be understandable if the military relied on help from the FBI on joint investigations, but not when the FBI was not involved in a probe.
The FBI referred requests for comment Tuesday to the Defense Department. A department spokesman, Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, said in an e-mail that the department had made "focused, limited and judicious" use of the letters since Congress extended the capability to investigatory entities other than the FBI in 2001.
Goodman, a staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, said the military is allowed to demand financial and credit records in certain instances but does not have the authority to get e-mail and phone records or lists of Web sites that people have visited. That is the kind of information that the FBI can get by using a national security letter, she said.
"That's why we're particularly concerned. The DoD may be accessing the kinds of records they are not allowed to get," she said.
Goodman also noted that legal limits are placed on the Defense Department "because the military doing domestic investigations tends to make us leery."
In other allegations, the ACLU said:
_ The Navy's use of the letters to demand domestic records has increased significantly since the Sept. 11 attacks.
_ The military wrongly claimed its use of the letters was limited to investigating only Defense Department employees.
_ The Defense Department has not kept track of how many national security letters the military issues or what information it obtained through the orders.
_ The military provided misleading information to Congress and silenced letter recipients from speaking out about the records requests.
Goodman said Congress should provide stricter guidelines and meaningful oversight of how the military and FBI make national security letter requests.
"Any government agency's ability to demand these kinds of personal, financial or Internet records in the United States is an intrusive surveillance power," she said.
Everyone in this administration wants to slap down the post-9/11 fear card to justify the violation of our rights and the suppression of our liberties!
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