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ABA asks NSA to explain how intelligence agency deals with attorney-client privilege

Posted Feb 21, 2014 1:32 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Following news reports that a foreign ally of a U.S. intelligence agency may have spied on a BigLaw firm, the American Bar Association has asked the director of the National Security Agency and its general counsel for an explanation of how it deals with attorney-client privilege.

In a Thursday letter (PDF), ABA President James R. Silkenat asks for an explanation of what policies and practices the NSA has in place to protect confidential information protected by the attorney-client privilege that may be received or intercepted—and whether those policies and practices were complied with in the alleged law firm incident.

"I write to express our concerns over allegations raised in recent press reports concerning possible foreign government surveillance of American lawyers’ confidential communications with their overseas clients, the subsequent sharing of privileged information from those communications with the National Security Agency ('NSA'), and the possible use of that information by the U.S. government or third parties," Silkenat wrote in the letter. "Whether or not those press reports are accurate, given the principles of 'minimization' under the law, we request your support in preserving fundamental attorney-client privilege protections for all clients and ensuring that the proper policies and procedures are in place at NSA to prevent the erosion of this important legal principle."

An ABA press release provides further details.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: "Mayer Brown was reportedly spied on by NSA ally; law firm says it wasn’t subject of alleged scrutiny"

The Nation: "Has the NSA Wiretapping Violated Attorney-Client Privilege? "

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