National Security Letters
In investigating threats, the FBI relies on the use of National Security Letters (NSLs), which can be used to require companies to provide certain types of information to the government without disclosing the orders to the subject of the investigation. In order to be more transparent in how the government uses this authority, the President directed the Attorney General to amend how we use NSLs to ensure that non-disclosure is not indefinite, and will terminate within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a need for further secrecy.
We will also enable communications providers to make public more information than ever before about the orders they have received to provide data to the government. These companies have made clear that they want to be more transparent about the FISA, NSL and law enforcement requests that they receive from the government. The Administration agrees that these concerns are important, and is in discussions with the providers about ways in which additional information could be made public.
Increasing Confidence Overseas
U.S. global leadership demands that we balance our security requirements against our need to maintain trust and cooperation among people and leaders around the world. For that reason, the new presidential guidance lays out principles that govern what we do abroad, and clarifies what we don't do. The United States only uses signals intelligence for legitimate national security purposes, and not for the purpose of indiscriminately reviewing the e-mails or phone calls of ordinary people.
What we don't do: The United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent. We do not collect intelligence to disadvantage people based on their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. And we do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to U.S. companies, or U.S. commercial sectors.
What we will do: In terms of our bulk collection, we will only use data to meet specific security requirements: counter-intelligence; counter-terrorism; counter-proliferation; cyber-security; force protection for our troops and allies; and combating transnational crime, including sanctions evasion.
The President has also decided that we will take the unprecedented step of extending certain protections that we have for the American people to people overseas. He has directed the Attorney General and DNI to develop these safeguards, which will limit the duration that we can hold personal information, while also restricting the dissemination of this information.
People around the world regardless of their nationality should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don't threaten our national security and takes their privacy concerns into account.
This applies to foreign leaders as well. Given the understandable attention that this issue has received, the President has made clear to the intelligence community that unless there is a compelling national security purpose we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies. And he has instructed his national security team, as well as the intelligence community, to work with foreign counterparts to deepen our coordination and cooperation in ways that rebuild trust going forward.
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