Washington - Internet entrepreneur Nicholas Merrill was working in his Manhattan office when an FBI agent in a trench coat arrived with an envelope.
The agent handed Merrill a document called a National Security Letter, which demanded that he turn over detailed records on one of his customers.... The letter wasn't signed by a judge or prosecutor...... It instructed him to tell no one..... "Not even my lawyer?
Not even my business partners?" Merrill asked.... The agent shrugged and left. Merrill had gotten a rare glimpse of the secret domestic intelligence gathering that is one of the most significant
Merrill had gotten a rare glimpse of the secret domestic intelligence gathering that is one of the most significant legacies of Sept. 11. U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies now collect, store and analyze vast quantities of digital data produced by law-abiding Americans. The data mining receives limited congressional oversight, rare judicial review and almost no public scrutiny.
Thanks to new laws and technologies, authorities track and eavesdrop on Americans as they never could before, hauling in billions of bank records, travel receipts and other information. In several cases, they have wiretapped conversations between lawyers and defendants, challenging the legal principle that attorney-client communication is inviolate.