Dems press Holder on secret FBI letters

Two House Democrats are calling on Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderPelosi refers to Sinclair's Rosen as 'Mr. Republican Talking Points' over whistleblower question Krystal Ball: Billionaires panicking over Sanders candidacy Obama celebrates 'great night for our country' after Democrats' victories in Virginia and Kentucky MORE to make changes to secret letters that the FBI uses to get information.

In a letter on Wednesday, the lawmakers demanded answers about the FBI’s National Security Letters, which do not require a court order and require communications companies and financial institutions to turn over details about their customers.

“This is deeply troubling and, therefore, addressing the proper use of NSLs must be part of any meaningful reform of government surveillance authorities,” Reps. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerMaloney wins House Oversight gavel House Judiciary Committee approves landmark marijuana legalization bill Maloney wins vote for Oversight chairwoman MORE (D-N.Y.) and David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineHillicon Valley: Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal | Facebook reports millions of post takedowns | Microsoft shakes up privacy debate | Disney plus tops 10M sign-ups in first day Top antitrust Dem presses DOJ, FTC on Google's Fitbit acquisition Hillicon Valley: California AG reveals Facebook investigation | McConnell criticizes Twitter's political ad ban | Lawmakers raise concerns over Google takeover of Fitbit | Dem pushes FCC to secure 5G networks MORE (D-R.I.) said in a joint statement accompanying the letter.

“We look forward to working with the Administration as we find a path forward on this issue.”

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Holder, along with top intelligence officials, is set to outline a series of reforms to the country’s surveillance efforts for President Obama. The announcement could come as soon as this week.

The reforms are likely to focus on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) collection of records about phone calls, which have raised alarms among privacy advocates since the program was unveiled in documents from former contractor Edward Snowden last year.

Agents at the NSA need to get a court order to search those records, but no similar order is necessary for the National Security Letters.

Nadler and Cicilline asked Holder why the FBI uses the secret letters because federal officials seem to be able to get the same information through the phone records database.

In a speech last month, Obama said he was wary of requiring that National Security Letters be approved by a judge.

“I have concerns that we should not set a standard for terrorism investigations that is higher than those involved in investigating an ordinary crime,“ he said.

Obama did, however, support increased transparency for the letters. Currently, companies have limits on disclosing the government's requests for information they receive.