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FBI uses 50,000 "national security letters" per year to seize personal information

Published in Blog on July 17, 2017 by Convention Of States Project

You’ve heard of the NSA collecting private information on U.S. citizens. A newly-released court filing shows that the FBI has gotten into the game as well.

For years the FBI has used so-called “national security letters” to compel Internet and telecommunications firms to hand over customer data without a warrant or judicial oversight. Several thousand are issued every year; at one point the number exceeded 50,000 annually. Yahoo News reports:

National security letters have been available as a law enforcement tool since the 1970s, but their frequency and breadth expanded dramatically under the USA Patriot Act, which was passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. They are almost always accompanied by an open-ended gag order barring companies from disclosing the contents of the demand for customer data. [...]

The secretive orders have long drawn the ire of tech companies and privacy advocates, who argue NSLs allow the government to snoop on user content without appropriate judicial oversight or transparency.

Last year, the Obama administration announced it would permit Internet companies to disclose more about the number of NSLs they receive. But they can still only provide a range such as between 0 and 999 requests, or between 1,000 and 1,999. Twitter has sued in federal court seeking the ability to publish more details in its semi-annual transparency reports.

As one of the article’s commenters said, “Our government is out of control.”

For too long D.C. has acted without regard for the will of the American people. It’s time to change that, and we can do so with an Article V Convention of States. A Convention of States can propose constitutional amendments that clarify and reinforce the freedoms and rights the Founders included in the Constitution, returning our country to a true limited-government, constitutional republic.

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