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FISC approved record number of surveillance, search warrants in 2006: DOJ

[JURIST] A secret court approved a record number of US government requests to search or eavesdrop on suspected terrorists or other persons for "foreign intelligence" purposes in 2006, endorsing all but one warrant, according to statistics [DOJ letter, PDF] made public by the US Department of Justice Tuesday. According to a three-page letter to House leaders filed under the annual reporting requirements of the Patriot Act [text], the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [FJC backgrounder; membership list] okayed a total of 2,176 warrants, more than twice the number it approved in 2000, before the Sept.11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In 2005, FISC approved 2,072 applications [DOJ letter] for authority to conduct electronic surveillance and physical searches.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard Hartling said the Department could not yet say how many times the FBI secretly sought telephone, Internet and banking records about US citizens and residents without going to the FISC for approval, because it was still investigating the FBI's use of controversial national security letters [ACLU backgrounder]. In 2005, the FBI issued national security letters on 3,501 US citizens and legal residents. In April, the Bush administration officially proposed amendments [JURIST report] to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive] that would subject more people to electronic surveillance within the United States. AP has more.

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