Yesterday ARL, along with 22 other good-government groups, sent a letter (PDF) to the US Department of Justice urging Attorney General Eric Holder to make public any reports by Inspector General Michael Horowitz regarding the collection of Americans’ telephone records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. If the Office of the Inspector General has not previously conducted a full review of this program, the letter asks it to do so.
Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act allows the FBI to apply to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) for an order requiring the production of any tangible thing that is relevant to an authorized investigation to collect foreign intelligence or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities. Serious questions have been raised by lawmakers and legal experts about whether the recently revealed program, under which telephone companies are ordered to produce all of the telephony metadata for all of their subscribers, is consistent with the purpose or even the letter of Section 215.
The Inspector General has previously reviewed and reported on the FBI’s activities under Section 215. Any discussion of the telephone surveillance program, however, was redacted from public reports because the program was classified. Now that the government has declassified the existence of the program and many details about it, there is no longer any justification for withholding the Inspector General’s conclusions from the public.
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in the US and Canada. Its mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at http://www.arl.org/.