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Abstract

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act to aid law enforcement efforts to fight terrorism and broadened the scope of certain investigatory tools. One such tool, National Security Letters (NSLs), gives the government the authority to request certain types of transactional records without requiring judicial pre-approval and without giving the recipient a meaningful method to challenge it. This Comment examines NSLs both in the context of foreign intelligence and domestic criminal investigations and is primarily focused on how to classify NSLs and how to use them in a manner that reduces the potential for abuse or over-reaching. This Comment argues that NSLs are not foreign intelligence tools, but are merely foreign intelligence exceptions to domestic laws that allow law enforcement access to records that would otherwise be protected by privacy laws. Accordingly, NSLs must be able to satisfy the constitutional requirements for domestic searches. Finally, this Comment maintains that even if NSLs are constitutional despite their issuance without a warrant, they still have great potential for abuse and additional safeguards beyond the recent revisions are necessary.

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