The National Security Archive and Electronic Frontier Foundation urged a federal appeals court on Wednesday to outlaw a section of a 22-year-old surveillance law that, because of a PATRIOT Act expansion, allows the FBI to obtain private records about citizens’ communications believed to advance a terrorism or espionage investigation without court approval.
U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero initially deemed the national security letter statute unconstitutional in 2004, but the Bush administration appealed the decision. The two watchdog organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stressing that the type of authority issued in this provision proliferates the abuse of power and urged the court to rule in favor of a more open government.
The organizations filed the brief a week after the Justice Department released a report that showed the FBI may have used the national security letters in flawed and possibly illegal ways.