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U.S. Government Reveals Breadth Of Requests For Internet Records

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has used a secretive authority to compel internet and telecommunications firms to hand over customer data including an individual's complete web browsing history and records of all online purchases, a court filing released Monday shows.

The documents are believed to be the first time the government has provided details of its so-called national security letters, which are used by the FBI to conduct electronic surveillance without the need for court approval.

The filing made public Monday was the result of an 11-year-old legal battle waged by Nicholas Merrill, founder of Calyx Internet Access, a hosted service provider, who refused to comply with a national security letter (NSL) he received in 2004.

Merrill told Reuters the release was significant "because the public deserves to know how the government is gathering information without warrants on Americans who are not even suspected of a crime."

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.

A federal court ruled earlier this year that the gag on Merrill's NSL should be lifted.

Merrill's challenge also disclosed that the FBI may use NSLs to gain IP addresses on everyone a suspect has corresponded with and cell-site location information. The FBI said in the court filings it no longer used NSLs for location information.

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.

Several thousand NSLs are now issued by the FBI every year, though the agency says it is unaware of the precise number. At one point that number eclipsed 50,000 letters annually.

The FBI did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

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See also: Scope of Secretive FBI National Security Letters Revealed by First Lifted Gag Order.

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Previously:
* What's The Evidence That Mass Surveillance Works? Not Much.

* Why The Close Collaboration Between The NSA And AT&T Matters.

* First Library To Support Anonymous Internet Browsing Effort Stops After DHS E-Mail.

* EFF Sues For Records About 'Hemisphere' Phone Call Collection And Drug Enforcement Program.

* Snowden Documentarian Laura Poitras Sues U.S. Government To Uncover Records After Years Of Airport Detentions And Searches.

* Obama Secretly Expanded NSA Spying To Internet.

* Court: NSA Phone Program Illegal.

* The Chicago Connection To The Hidden Intelligence Breakdowns Behind The Mumbai Attacks.

* Human Rights Watch Sues DEA Over Bulk Collection Of American's Telephone Records.

* U.S. Secretly Tracked Billions Of Calls For Decades.

* Amnesty International Joins ACLU, Wikimedia In Lawsuit To Stop Mass Surveillance Program.

* Stop Spying On Wikipedia Users.

* EFF Wins Battle Over Secret Legal Opinions On Government Spying.

* The NSA's "U.S. Corporate Partners."

* I Fight Surveillance.

* Illegal Spying Below.

* Smith vs. Obama.

* EFF Sues NSA Over FOIA.

* Stand Against Spying.

* The NSA Revelations All In One Chart.

* U.S. Supreme Court Limits Cell Phone Searches.

* EFF To Court: There's No Doubt The Government Destroyed NSA Spying Evidence.

* House Committee Puts NSA On Notice Over Encryption Standards.

* Which Tech Companies Help Protect You From Government Data Demands?

* Lawsuit Demands DOJ Release More Secret Surveillance Court Rulings.

* Human Rights Organizations To Foreign Ministers: Stop Spying On Us.

* What The Proposed NSA Reforms Wouldn't Do.

* Technologists Turn On Obama.

* Dear Supreme Court: Set Limits On Cell Phone Searches.

* EFF Fights National Security Letter Demands On Behalf Of Telecom, Internet Company.

* Eighth-Grader Schools The NSA.

* You Know Who Else Collected Metadata? The Stasi.

* Today We Fight Back.

* The Day We Fight Back.

* FAQ: The NSA's Angry Birds.

* Jon Stewart: The Old Hope-A-Dope.

* Four Blatantly False Claims Obama Has Made About NSA Surveillance.

* EFF To DOJ In Lawsuit: Stop Pretending Information Revealed About NSA Over Last Seven Months Is Still A Secret.

* Judge On NSA Case Cites 9/11 Report, But It Doesn't Actually Support His Ruling.

* Edward Snowden's Christmas Message.

* Jon Stewart: Obama Totally Lying About NSA Spying.

* Presidential Panel To NSA: Stop Undermining Encryption.

* The NSA Is Coming To Town.

* 60 Minutes We Can't Get Back.

* Why Care About The NSA?

* NSA Surveillance Drives Writers To Self-Censor.

* Filed: 22 Firsthand Accounts Of How NSA Surveillance Chilled The Right To Association.

* Claim On 'Attacks Thwarted' By NSA Spreads Despite Lack Of Evidence.

* Obama Vs. The World.

* How A Telecom Helped The Government Spy On Me.

* UN Member States Asked To End Unchecked Surveillance.

* Government Standards Agency: Don't Follow Our Encryption Guidelines Because NSA.

* Five More Organizations Join Lawsuit Against NSA.

* A Scandal Of Historic Proportions.

* Item: NSA Briefing.

* The Case Of The Missing NSA Blog Post.

* The NSA Is Out Of Control.

* Patriot Act Author Joins Lawsuit Against NSA.

* Obama's Promises Disappear From Web.

* Why NSA Snooping Is A Bigger Deal In Germany.

* Item: Today's NSA Briefing.

* NSA Briefing: It Just Got Worse (Again).

* Song of the Moment: Party at the NSA.

* It Not Only Can Happen Here, It Is Happening Here.

* What NSA Transparency Looks Like.

* America's Lying About Spying: Worse Than You Think.

* Obama Continues To Lie His Ass Off About The NSA.

* The Surveillance Reforms Obama Supported Before He Was President.

* America's Spying: Worse Than You Think.

* Has The U.S. Government Lied About Its Snooping? Let's Go To The Videotape.

* Who Are We At War With? That's Classified.

* Six Ways Congress May Reform NSA Snooping.

* NSA Says It Can't Search Its Own E-Mails.

* Does The NSA Tap That?

* Obama Explains The Difference Between His Spying And Bush's Spying.

* FAQ: What You Need To Know About The NSA's Surveillance Programs.

* NSA: Responding To This FOIA Would Help "Our Adversaries".

* Fact-Check: The NSA And 9/11.

* The NSA's Black Hole: 5 Things We Still Don't Know About The Agency's Snooping.

* Defenders Of NSA Surveillance Citing Chicago Case Omit Most Of Mumbai Plotter's Story.

* Obama's War On Truth And Transparency.

* ProPublica's Guide To The Best Stories On The Growing Surveillance State.

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See also:
* Jimmy Carter: America's Shameful Human Rights Record.

* James Goodale: Only Nixon Harmed A Free Press More.

* Daniel Ellsberg: Obama Has Committed Impeachable Offenses.

* Paul Steiger: Why Reporters In The U.S. Now Need Protection.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on December 1, 2015


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