Responding To National Security Letters That Ask For Personal Information

National Security Letters (“NSLs”) refer to a collection of statutes that authorize certain government agencies to obtain information and simultaneously impose a secrecy obligation upon the recipient of the letter.

Four statutes permit government agencies to issue NSLs: (1) the Electronic Communication Privacy Act,1 (2) the Right to Financial Privacy Act,2 (3) the National Security Act,3 and the (4) Fair Credit Reporting Act.4 Although differences exist between the NSLs issued under each statute, in general, all of the NSLs permit a requesting agency to prevent an organization that receives the NSL from disclosing the fact that it received the request, or the type of information that was requested, if disclosure may result in a danger to national security, interfere with a criminal, counterterrorism, or counterintelligence investigation, interfere with diplomatic relations, or endanger the life or physical safety of a person. …

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