Congressional Record: March 28, 2007 (Extensions)
Page E686



                            HON. JANE HARMAN

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                       Wednesday, March 28, 2007

  Ms. HARMAN. Madam Speaker, we now know that the FBI may have violated 
the law or government policies as many as 3,000 times in the use of 
National Security Letters.
  This body has been deeply deficient in its oversight of how NSLs are 
used, and legislative changes to current law are clearly needed in 
light of these stunning abuses. That is why the bill I am reintroducing 
today is even more important now than when I and others first 
introduced it in December 2005.
  I doubt anyone disagrees that law enforcement must be armed with the 
necessary tools to catch terrorists, spies and others who threaten U.S. 
national security, but we must do so in a manner that protects the 
cherished liberty and privacy expectations of all Americans.
  This legislation will strengthen accountability and oversight of 
NSLs, which, to remind my colleagues, are requests for personal data 
and records issued directly by government agencies without the approval 
of a judge.
  We knew 16 months ago about the lack of checks and balances on both 
the front and back end of the NSL process--and we knew of the almost 
non-existent congressional oversight of their use.
  Currently, Congress receives a one-page summary listing aggregate 
numbers of NSLs employed over the course of 6 months. These broad 
summaries are often delivered as much as a year late or longer. This 
was grossly inadequate in 2005, and is a bone-rattling embarrassment in 
  This bill would make the following changes to the use of NSLs. On the 
front-end, the bill would: Require the government to show a specific 
connection to a terrorist or foreign power before an NSL could be 
issued--a return to the pre-Patriot Act standard; require NSLs to be 
approved by a FISA court or designated Federal magistrate judge; and 
require the FISA court to set up an electronic system for filing NSL 
applications, so that requests are expedited and will not slow down 
  On the back-end, this legislation would: Provide a Sense of Congress 
that, in cases where an NSL recipient challenges the ``gag''/non-
disclosure requirement, the government's certification that harm to 
national security will occur shall be treated as a `rebuttable' 
presumption, not as ``conclusive'' evidence that harm would occur; 
require minimization procedures to ensure destruction of information 
obtained through NSL requests that is no longer needed; and require 
detailed semi-annual reports to the Congressional Intelligence and 
Judiciary Committees on all NSLs issued, minimization procedures, court 
challenges, and how NSLs aided investigations and prosecutions.
  Now, more than ever, Congress must reassert its oversight 
prerogatives not only to regain control of a program that the Executive 
Branch allowed to morph into an out-of-control beast, but to reassure 
the American people that their interests and most fundamental rights 
are being protected.
  In the 109th Congress, the bill was coauthored by the present 
Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and all Democrats then on the 
Intelligence Committee. It was also endorsed by key civil liberties 
groups. I urge its broad support again.