Thanks to court documents released today (Nov. 30) Americans can for the first time glimpse one of the US government’s powerful surveillance tools: the National Security Letter, or NSL.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation sends out tens of thousands of these letters every year to financial institutions, travel agencies, telecommunications companies, and credit-reporting agencies demanding a wide range of information on the individual it is investigating, without a warrant from a judge. The Patriot Act, signed into law in 2001, drastically increased the FBI’s mandate to issue NSLs.
Nicholas Merrill filed a First Amendment lawsuit after receiving an NSL in 2004 regarding one of the customers of his New York internet and consulting business, Calyx Internet Access. A federal judge has now ordered the release of Merrill’s NSL, which was handed to him by an FBI agent along with an order not to discuss it with anyone.
Here is some of the information on his client that Merrill was ordered to hand over, per the unredacted document:
- DSL account information
- Subscriber name and related subscriber information
- Addresses associated with the account
- Subscriber day/evening telephone numbers
- Screen names or other online names associated with the account
- Order forms
- Records relating to merchandise orders/shipping information for the last 180 days
- All billing related to account
- Internet Service Provider (ISP)
- All email addresses associated with account
- Internet Protocol (IP address) assigned to the account
- All website information registered to the account
- Uniform Resource Locator (URL) address assigned to the account
- Any other information which you consider to be electronic communication transactional record.