Congressional Record: November 20, 2003 (Senate)
Page S15275


  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, yesterday saw passage of yet another 
example of this Administration's secret efforts to further expand 
secret powers of the FBI. The FBI can now use National Security 
Letters, NSLs, which do not require approval by a court, grand jury, or 
prosecuting attorney, to demand confidential financial records from car 
dealers, pawn brokers, travel and real estate agents, and other 
businesses, and to prohibit the business from disclosing that the 
records have been sought or obtained.
  There is no requirement that the FBI demonstrate a need for such 
records. It need only assert that the records are ``sought for'' an 
intelligence or terrorism investigation. Nor are there sufficient 
limits on what the FBI may do with the records or how it must store 
them. For example, information obtained through NSLs may be stored 
electronically and used for large-scale data mining operations.
  Congress last expanded the FBI's NSL authority in October 2001, as 
part of the comprehensive antiterrorism package known as the USA 
PATRIOT Act. Incredibly, the Intelligence Committee forced passage of 
this latest expansion without consulting the Judiciary Committee, which 
oversees both the FBI and the implementation of the PATRIOT Act. 
Indeed, the Committee is in the midst of holding a series of oversight 
hearings on the PATRIOT Act, including the very provision that has now 
been significantly modified.
  What is even more incredible is the fact that this very provision is 
the target of sunset legislation that I and other members of the 
Judiciary Committee, both Democratic and Republican, have introduced. 
There is no doubt that we would have meaningfully and thoroughly 
explored further expansion of the NSL authority had we been given the 
opportunity to do so.
  This is what the new law has done. Under the PATRIOT Act, the FBI was 
permitted to use NSLs to obtain records from banks and other similar 
financial institutions if they were ``sought for'' an intelligence or 
terrorism investigation. Now the term ``financial institution'' has 
been expanded to include a host of other businesses that have nothing 
to do with the business of banking, and the term ``financial record'' 
has been expanded to include any record held by any such business that 
pertains to a customer.
  The FBI has long had the power to obtain this sort of information, 
whether through a judicial subpoena or a search warrant. But with the 
stealth amendment of the NSL authority, the FBI can now obtain a vast 
amount of personal and highly confidential information without 
obtaining court approval, and without any other independent check on 
the validity or scope of the inquiry. The privacy rights of all 
Americans have been compromised as a result.