President Obama’s National Security Letter Reforms: UPDATE

On January 17, 2014, President Obama addressed the nation with his plan to revamp government surveillance activities.  The President outlined five key changes he hopes to implement moving forward.  You can take a look at our post from the day the speech was released for a full recap; but, for now, I want to focus on the fourth section of reforms introduced by the President regarding National Security Letters (NSLs).

Specifically referencing NSLs—issued by the government and requiring private companies to provide the government with information about their customers (and often subjecting such companies to a gag order)—President Obama stated:

Now, these are cases in which it’s important that the subject of the investigation, such as a possible terrorist or spy, isn’t tipped off.  But we can and should be more transparent in how the government uses this authority.

President Obama represented, therefore, that he would direct the Attorney General to

amend how we use national security letters so that this secrecy will not be indefinite, so that it will terminate within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy.  We will also enable communications providers to make public more information than ever before about the orders that they have received to provide data to the government.

Now for the update:

Threat Post reports that a Department of Justice ruling, accompanied by a Deputy Attorney General letter sent to certain private entities, was released last week easing the gag order and providing companies with two new reporting options:

  • First, companies may report the number of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders for content and non-content, and the number of customer accounts affected for each in bands of 1000 requests.  (Reports may be published every six months, but subject to delay when necessary).
  • Second, companies may report all national security requests received through either NSL or FISA order, as well as the number of customer accounts affected with exact numbers (up to 250 requests and thereafter in bands of 250).
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One Response to “President Obama’s National Security Letter Reforms: UPDATE”

  1. […] speech (you can also find more background information as well as updates regarding those pledges here and here).  Here’s the proposal (emphasis […]

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Authors

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. She is the 2018-9 Editor in Chief of the Syracuse Law Review, as well as a member of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography

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