National Security Letters

A national security letter (NSL) is an administrative subpoena issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in authorized national security investigations "to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities" (i.e., spying). 18 U.S.C. § 2709(b). Federal law (Electronic Communications Privacy Act (18 U.S.C. § 2709), Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. §§ 1681u and 1681v), and Right to Financial Privacy Act (12 U.S.C. § 3414), authorizes the FBI to seek such information that is "relevant" to an authorized national security investigation. By law, NSLs can request only non-content information, for example, transactional records and phone numbers dialed.
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