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3. Re: No subject Nov 8, 2005, 06:34 Orogogus
The article suggests that they 300 letters were issued each year prior to the Patriot Act, and says they were created in the 1970s. Googling for "national security letter" suggests (here: that the FBI has had this authority as far back as 1978.

"The National Security Letter was originally authorized under three statutes, 18 U.S.Code 2709, 12 U.S.Code 3414, and 15 U.S.Code 1681u."

Looking up those codes produces the following (click on the "Notes" links on each page for the publication dates):

Sec. 3414, 1978

Sec. 2709, 1982

Sec. 1681u, 1996

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