[EPIC_IDOF] National Security Letters

Bruce Schneier schneier at counterpane.com
Tue Nov 8 11:10:40 PST 2005

An Enemy of The State
Nov 7, 2005, 08:14

According to a printout from a computer controlled by the Federal
Bureau of
Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice, I am an enemy of the

The printout, shown to me recently by a friend who works for Justice,
identifies me by a long, multi-digit number, lists my date of birth,
of birth, social security number and contains more than 100 pages
documenting what the Bureau and the Bush Administration consider to
be my
threats to the security of the United States of America.

It lists where I sent to school, the name and address of the first
wife that
I had been told was dead but who is alive and well and living in
background information on my current wife and details on my service
to my
country that I haven?t even revealed to my wife or my family.

Although the file finds no criminal activity by me or members of my
immediate family, it remains open because I am a ?person of interest?
has ?written and promoted opinions that are contrary to the
government of
the United States of America.?

And it will remain active because the government of the United
States, under
the far-reaching provisions of the USA Patriot Act, can compile and
such information on any American citizen. That act gives the FBI the
authority to collect intimate details about anyone, even those not
of any wrongdoing.

My file begins on September 11, 2001, the day of the terrorist
attacks on
New York and Washington. A Marine guard standing post at the Navy
Yard in
Washington jotted down the license number of my Jeep Wrangler after I
spotted taking pictures of armed guards at the locked-down military

That night, I found a card stuffed under my door from Agent John Ryan
of the
Naval Criminal Investigative Service. I chuckled at the time because the
lead character in Tom Clancy?s novels is named John P. Ryan.

I called Agent Ryan the next day. He wanted to know what the hell I was
doing taking photos of a military facility. I explained that I was a
journalist and taking pictures was what I did for a living. I
directed him
to a web site where he could find some of the photos I shot of the Navy
Yard?s side gate on that day. He asked for additional information,
date of birth and social security number, which I provided, and then

I thought the matter was dead until a few weeks ago when an old
friend from
Washington called, said he was in the area, and suggested lunch. At
he showed me the 100-plus pages of the file on me that grew out of that
first encounter with Agent Ryan of NCIS.

?Much of this information was gathered through what we call Rnational
security letters,?? he said. ?It allows us to gather information from a
variety of sources.?

A ?national security letter? it turns out, can be issued by any FBI
supervisor, without court order or judicial review, to compel libraries,
banks, employers and other sources to turn over any and all
information they
have on American citizens.

The FBI issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year.
When one
is delivered to a bank, library, employer or other entity, the same
law that authorizes such letters also prohibits your bank, employer or
anyone else from telling you that they received such a letter and were
forced to turn over all information on you.

According to my file, the banks where I have both business and checking
accounts have been forced to turn over all records of my
transactions, as
have every company where I have a charge account or credit card. They?ve
perused my book borrowing habits from libraries in Arlington and Floyd
Counties as well as studied what television shows I watch on the
Tivos in my
house. They know I belong to the National Rifle Association, the
Press Photographers Association and other professional groups. They
know I
attend meetings of Alcoholic Anonymous on a regular basis and the
file notes
that my ?pattern of spending? shows no purchase of ?alcohol-related
products? since the file was opened in 2001.

In the past, when information collected on an American citizen failed to
turn up any criminal activity, FBI policy called for such information
to be

But President George W. Bush in 2003 reversed that long-standing
policy and
ordered the bureau and other federal agencies to not only keep that
information but place it in government databases that can be accessed by
local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

In October, Bush also signed Executive Order 13388 which expands
access to
those databases to ?appropriate private sector entities? although the
does not explain what those entities might be. In addition, the Bush
Administration has successfully blocked legislation and legal actions
have tried to stop the expansion of spying and gathering of
information on

FBI spokesmen defend the national security letters as a ?necessary
tool? on
the so-called ?war on terror.?

"Congress has given us this tool to obtain basic telephone data, basic
banking data, basic credit reports," Valarie E. Caproni, the FBI general
counsel, told The Washington Post. "The fact that a national security
is a routine tool used, that doesn't bother me."

Obviously it doesn?t. Carponi signed at least one of the letters used to
gather information for my file.

When I asked to keep the copy of the file, my friend said ?no.?  I
to keep it and the source confidential.

?You can?t,? he said. ?You can?t keep anything hidden. Your life is
an open
book with us and it will be to the day you die.?

After we left lunch and went our separate ways, I wondered how, if my
was under such scrutiny from Uncle Sam, he could meet me for lunch in a
public restaurant and not be discovered? So the next day I went to a
phone in an out-of-the-way location and dialed his direct number.

It was disconnected. So I called the central number and asked to
speak to
him. The woman who answered the phone wanted my name and phone number
so he
could return the call.  I hung up.

Then I drove home with one eye glued to the rearview mirror. Didn?t see
anything suspicious but if I turn up missing one day, just forward my
to General Delivery, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

? Copyright 2005 by Capitol Hill Blue

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