Reyes to look at credit records searches
Reyes to look at credit records searches (12:57 p.m.)
Times wire report
01/14/2007 12:53:40 PM MST
WASHINGTON (AP) Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday
the Pentagon and CIA are not violating people's rights
by examining the banking and credit records of
hundreds of Americans and others suspected of
terrorism or espionage in the United States.
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, a Texas Democrat from El Paso,
the new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee,
said his panel will be the judge of that.
National security letters permit the executive branch
to seek records about people in terrorism and spy
investigations without a judge's approval or grand
"The Defense Department gets involved because we've
got hundreds of bases inside the United States that
are potential terrorist targets," Cheney said.
"The Department of Defense has legitimate authority in
this area. This is an authority that goes back three
or four decades. It was reaffirmed in the Patriot
Act," he said. "It's perfectly legitimate activity.
There's nothing wrong with it or illegal. It doesn't
violate people's civil rights." In a statement Sunday,
Reyes promised that his panel would take a careful
look at those claims.
"Any expansion by the department into intelligence
collection, particularly on U.S. soil, is something
our committee will thorough review," Reyes said.
"We want our intelligence professionals to have strong
tools that will enable them to interrupt the planning
process of our enemies and to stop attacks against our
country," he said. "But in doing so, we also want
those tools to comply fully with the law and the
The Pentagon and the CIA, to a lesser extent, have
used this little-known power, officials said. The FBI,
the lead agency on domestic counterterrorism and
espionage, has issued thousands of such letters since
the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The letters have generated criticism and court
challenges from civil liberties advocates who claim
they invade the privacy of Americans' lives, even
though banks and other financial institutions
typically turn over the financial records voluntarily.
The vast majority of national security letters are
issued by the FBI, but in rare circumstances they have
been used by the CIA before and after Sept. 11,
according to a U.S. intelligence official. The CIA has
used these noncompulsory letters in espionage
investigations and other circumstances, the official
The New York Times, which reported today on the
expanded use of the technique by the Pentagon and CIA,
said military intelligence officers have sent the
letters in up to 500 investigations.
"This is a dramatic story, but I think it's important
for people to understand here this is a legitimate
security effort that's been under way for a long time,
and it does not represent a new departure from the
standpoint of our efforts to protect ourselves against
terrorist attacks," the vice president said.
Cheney was interviewed on "Fox News Sunday."