from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 39
March 27, 2006

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National security letters are investigative tools used in foreign intelligence investigations to compel the disclosure of certain transactional information such as financial records and communications data.

NSLs have become controversial due to their increasing use by government agencies (primarily the FBI), and because of the non-disclosure requirements and the limited judicial oversight involved in their use.

A new report from the Congressional Research Service sorts through the five statutes that authorize the use of National Security Letters, including the latest amendments which provide for a measure of judicial review.

See "National Security Letters in Foreign Intelligence Investigations: Legal Background and Recent Amendments," March 17, 2006:

An abbreviated version of the same report, without footnotes or appendices, is "National Security Letters in Foreign Intelligence Investigations: A Glimpse of the Legal Background and Recent Amendments," March 21, 2006:

Administrative subpoenas used in criminal investigations are approximately analogous to national security letters used in foreign intelligence investigations. They are the subject of another new report from the Congressional Research Service.

For extended background on administrative subpoenas, see "Administrative Subpoenas in Criminal Investigations: A Brief Legal Analysis," March 17, 2006:

An abbreviated version of that report is "Administrative Subpoenas in Criminal Investigations: A Sketch," March 17, 2006:

CRS does not make its publications directly available to the public. Copies of these reports were obtained by Secrecy News.


Some other notable new reports from the Congressional Research Service are the following.

"Material Support of Terrorists and Foreign Terrorist Organizations: Sunset Amendments in Brief," updated March 17, 2006:

"Tactical Aircraft Modernization: Issues for Congress," updated March 16, 2006:

"Syria: U.S. Relations and Bilateral Issues," updated March 13, 2006:

"AIDS in Africa," updated March 9, 2006:

"Internet Development and Information Control in the People's Republic of China," February 10, 2006:


The U.S. Army has issued a new manual on unmanned aerial systems (UAS), which are increasingly used in a wide spectrum of reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting missions.

UAS include what were formerly referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), plus their payloads and support systems.

The new Army manual includes fresh information on Army UAS programs and operations.

A copy of the unclassified manual was obtained by Secrecy News.

See "Army Unmanned Aircraft System Operations," Field Manual Interim FMI 3-04.155, dated 4 April 2006 (183 pages in a large 9 MB PDF file):


Dr. Thomas C. Butler is one of the rather few people in the history of humanity of whom it can be truly said that he helped to save millions of lives. A specialist in the plague and other infectious diseases, his research helped lead to the adoption of oral hydration as a standard treatment for diarrhea in the Third World and elsewhere.

But in post-9/11 America, Dr. Butler is also a convicted criminal.

Because he apparently committed certain violations of the laws governing the transport of toxic agents used in his medical research, he was investigated and prosecuted as if he were a potential terrorist. In 2004, he was sentenced to a term of two years in prison, which he recently completed.

The strange tale of Dr. Butler is explored this week in an exhaustive seven-part series in the Cleveland Plain Dealer beginning March 26. See "Plagued by Fear" reported by John Mangels here:

Some related material in support of Dr. Butler from the Federation of American Scientists is available here:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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