Your Help Needed in Analyzing FBI Docs

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2007-07-27 Print this article Print

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is looking for people to scrutinize once-secret files.

Lacking something to read at the beach this summer? Problem solved: There are 1,138 pages detailing FBI activity that need to be pored over by good citizens so as to ferret out abuse of power. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has requested that people "dive into the docs," all of which are freely downloadable, with searchable text, from the nonprofit groups Web site.
The documents were released after the EFF sued the government under the Freedom of Information Act in April. At that time, the EFF asked a judge to issue an emergency order requiring the FBI to immediately release agency records about its abuse of NSLs (National Security Letters). The FBI used NSLs to collect personal information on U.S. citizens after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Before the passage of the Patriot Act, the FBI was restricted to using the NSLs to secure the records of suspected terrorists or spies. Under the Patriot Act, the FBI gained the power to use NSLs to get telephone, Internet, financial, credit and other personal records about anybody without any court approval, as long as the information might be relevant to an authorized terrorism or espionage investigation. The government is seeking broader tech snooping power. Click here to read more. The EFF has tracked more than 8,000 downloads of the documents so far and plans to post a new batch every month. "The whole point of sunshine laws like FOIA is to help the public hold the government accountable, and its great to see individuals exercising their right to know," the EFF said on its site. The EFF needs to show that its work on this and other projects is important and relevant and—in order to justify this projects funding—requests that people mention EFF if they use the documents in any way. Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEKs Security Watch blog.
Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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