"EFF Receives First Set of FOIA Documents on the FBI's Misuse of National Security Letter Authority" (Electronic Frontier Foundation, 9 July 2007)
EFF has obtained FBI documents showing years of chronic problems with its use of National Security Letters (NSLs). The issue first drew widespread attention four months ago, when the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General released a report [31M PDF] revealing extensive misuse of NSLs in a sampling of four FBI field offices.These findings were, unfortunately, not surprising to critics of the Bureau's NSL power. Before the USA PATRIOT Act was passed in 2001, the FBI could unilaterally issue these demands only to obtain the records of suspected terrorists or spies. Under the changes made by the controversial anti-terrorism law, however, the FBI can now use NSLs to get telephone, Internet, financial, credit, and other personal records about anybody -- without any court approval -- as long as it believes the information could be “relevant” to an authorized terrorism or espionage investigation.
Current, apparent definition of a terrorist: Anyone the FBI would like to get a free pass to wiretap.