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FBI telecom surveillance wider than previously acknowledged: NYT

[JURIST] The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official website] relied on telecommunication companies to engage in national security surveillance [JURIST news archive] much broader in scope than previously acknowledged, the New York Times reported Sunday. According to documents provided by privacy rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) [advocacy website; JURIST news archive], the FBI used national security letters (NSL) [CRS backgrounder, PDF; FBI backgrounder] to obtain detailed "community of interest" information from telecommunication companies. Community of interest information expands the scope of an investigation from a specific target to other individuals in contact with the target. FBI spokesperson Mike Kortan told the New York Times that the FBI has suspended the use of NSLs and community of interest information pending a review of government surveillance policies.

In July, the FBI and the Department of Justice [official website] announced the proposed launch of two oversight offices dedicated to reviewing [press release; JURIST report] the DOJ's National Security Division [official website] and the FBI's compliance with privacy laws. In March, the DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) [official website] released a report [PDF text] finding privacy violations at the FBI [JURIST report]. The review, conducted under the terms of the 2005 Patriot Act renewal legislation, found that the agency had improperly used national security letters. In June, a federal district judge ordered [PDF text; JURIST report] the FBI to release approximately 100,000 pages of documents detailing the FBI's use of NSLs pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act [DOJ backgrounder] request by the EFF. The New York Times has more.

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