National Security Letters

Under U.S. law, the FBI may issue a National Security Letter (NSL) to a third-party record holder as part of an authorized national security investigation. NSLs may be issued without a warrant or other judicial involvement, but can be used only to acquire information that is not content---for example, transactional records or subscriber information. After 9/11, the PATRIOT Act expanded the permissible uses of NSLs beyond just of foreign powers and their agents to investigations of terrorism. The FBI’s revitalized use of NSLs in post-9/11 counterterrorism soon came under scrutiny over lack of transparency and absence of judicial involvement.

Latest in National Security Letters

National Security Letters

Microsoft Joins Other Tech Companies by Releasing 2014 National Security Letter

Yesterday morning, Microsoft released, along with its most recent biannual transparency reports, a 2014 National Security Letter (NSL) from the FBI which sought “data belonging to a customer of our consumer services,” according to the company’s press release on

National Security Letters

DOJ Responses to FAQs on Use of National Security Letters to Obtain Electronic Communication Transaction Records

Below is a copy to the Department of Justice's Responses to Frequently Asked Questions on Use of National Security Letters to Obtain Electronic Communication Transaction Records, which should be of interest to Lawfare readers.

FISA: 215 Collection

The Power of Citizenship Bias

Following up on my post from last week on the report of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) of the UK Parliament, which inter alia recommended that British law for the first time introduce distinctions between citizens and non-citizens for the purpose of regulating electronic surveillance, I'd like to briefly comment on another relevant development.


Expanding on the International vs. U.S. Surveillance Law Comparisons

Following my post from last week  regarding how the debate over the Snowden disclosures has blurred the distinctions between national security surveillance authorities and consumer privacy law, Tim Edgar pointed out yesterday  that U.S. law is probably one of the most, if not the most, protective legal structures concerning government access to data for national security purposes than any other nation.


Mysterious Discretion: When Journalists Wield Power We Don't Understand

Last night, Laura Poitras’s Citizenfour received an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, a win I have been anticipating since Glenn Greenwald won the Pulitzer Prize back in April for breaking the Edward Snowden leaks.

In honor of the occasion, let's reflect on the single most compelling moment in Citizenfour.

Surveillance: Snowden NSA Controversy

Over 700 Million People Taking Steps to Avoid NSA Surveillance

There's a new international survey on Internet security and trust, of "23,376 Internet users in 24 countries," including "Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States." Amongst the findings, 60% of Internet users have heard of Edward Snowden, and 39% of those "have taken steps to prot

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