Responding to National Security Letters, a Practical Guide for Legal Counsel
American Bar Association, 2009
14 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2009
Date Written: March 6, 2009
The book provides a guide to the law relevant to receiving, reviewing, and responding to national security letters issued by agencies of the United States government. Recent legislative amendments, adopted in response to federal court decisions holding portions of earlier statutes unconstitutional, now permit recipients of national security letters to consult with lawyers. However, experience among lawyers with national security letters has not been extensive. This book provides guidance on the process of handling such letters. It is designed for use by practitioners and in classrooms, but also would assist individuals interested in privacy and civil liberties issues.
The book explains what national security letters are, and leads legal counsel through the stages of receiving, reviewing, and responding to such letters. The book analyzes issues that arise when information the government seeks may be located in foreign countries. It also explains the parameters of the safe harbors that are available to recipients of national security letters, and assesses the scope of the government's statutory authority to request information using national security letters as well as the risks of responding beyond the scope of a particular request, including and potential liability to customers whose personal information is shared. Finally, the book suggests ways to monitor and stay current on judicial, legislative, and executive branch actions concerning national security letters.
The book also contains annexes that include excerpts from the relevant statutes, descriptions of holdings in leading cases, a detailed sample policy for potential recipients of national security letters to consider in evaluating their own internal policies and procedures, and an extensive bibliography.
Keywords: national security letters, national security investigation, anti-terrorism investigation, counter-terrorism investigation, Fair Credit Reporting Act, Right to Financial Privacy Act, Electronic Communications Privacy Act, National Security Act, privacy, civil liberties, safe harbor, libraries
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