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Reyes to look at credit records searches

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.elpasotimes.com/breakingnews/ci_5013321 Reyes to look at credit records searches (12:57 p.m.) Times wire report 01/14/2007 12:53:40 PM MST
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 14, 2007
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      http://www.elpasotimes.com/breakingnews/ci_5013321

      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
      jury subpoena.

      "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
      Constitution."

      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
      said.

      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."
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