Just read this on MSN and I don’t know what to make of it. Can anyone explain? I understand what the judge did, but I’m not sure I understand why.
The national security letters are orders issued to individuals or organizations requesting information about individuals. It differs from a subpoena in that there is no judicial overview of how they are issued, and they come with a gag order, preventing you from discussing that you even received the letter, and consequently forbidding you from contesting the order, or even discussing it with a lawyer. The judge struck them down as unconstitutional because of this gag order.
I think it goes a little bit further than that Trekky…he did not strike down gag orders which disclosed specifics that might be detrimental to national security…he struck down gag orders which forbade the GENERAL disclosure that the recipient had received a gag order…absent specifics.
A good decision IMO too.
Why would a person or organization receive a gag order?
Disclosure of the existence of the letter is considered a matter of national security.
In accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 2709©(1), I certify that a disclosure of the fact that the FBI has sought or obtained access to the information sought by this letter may endanger the national security of the United States, interfere with a criminal, counterterrorism, or counterintelligence investigation, interfere with diplomatic relations, or endanger the life or physical safety of a person. Accordingly, 18 U.S.C. § 2709©(1) and (2) prohibits you, or any officer, employee, or agents of yours, from disclosing this letter, other than to those to whom disclosure is necessary to comply with the letter or to an attorney to obtain legal advice or assistance with respect to this letter.
In accordance with 18 U.S.C. §2709©(3), you are directed to notify any persons to whom you have disclosed this letter that they are also subject to the nondisclosure requirement and are therefore also prohibited from disclosing the letter to anyone else.
In accordance with 18 U.S.C. §3511©, an unlawful failure to comply with this letter, including any nondisclosure agreement, may result in the United States bringing an enforcement action.
I guess I’m a little dense here…why would someone get a “letter” that is considered a matter of national security? If it were a matter of national security, why would it be disclosed in a letter?
The letter is asking for someone to disclose information about someone else, and orders them not to talk about getting a letter.
So, for example, a couple years back there was a story about a librarian ordered to give the FBI information about some library patrons and what books they were checking out, and she refused and got in a whole lot of trouble for bringing national attention to the NSL she received.
Four Connecticut librarians who had been barred from revealing that they had received a request for patrons’ records from the federal government spoke out yesterday, expressing frustration about the sweeping powers given to law enforcement authorities by the USA Patriot Act.
The librarians took turns at the microphone at their lawyers’ office and publicly identified themselves as the collective John Doe who had sued the United States attorney general after their organization received a confidential demand for patron records in a secret counterterrorism case. They had been ordered, under the threat of prosecution, not to talk about the request with anyone. The librarians, who all have leadership roles at a small consortium called Library Connection in Windsor, Conn., said they opposed allowing the government unchecked power to demand library records and were particularly incensed at having been subject to the open-ended nondisclosure order.
Holy Moses! That is scarey! This reminds me of what went on in communist Russia and nazi Germany! Good Lord what are we turning into???
The issue, I think, was privacy concerns. The gag order related to disclosure of the NAMES of the individuals you (a communications company, for example) revealed, not just having gotten an NSL. IOW, a company was not prevented from disclosing they had RECEIVED an NSL, just from revealing the names of the individuals it disclosed.
So, for example, prior to the order, if Southwest Bell, let’s say received an NSL, they could say so, but they could NOT reveal to John Doe that HE was the subscriber the NSL wanted information about.
Now, with the order, they CAN reveal to John Doe that they were compelled to release information about his calls.
So, now, if your Internet access company (your “ISP”), for example, is forced by an NSL to release information on what other computers you’ve communicated with last month (they HAVE that information), they can tell you that they’ve released info on you WITHOUT being restricted by a gag order. IOW, it’s no longer against the law for them to tell you your government’s been snooping on you.
“Dear CT, we recently released your name and information we have on you to the FBI.” My sense is that if you requested your ISP to tell you precisely what information on you they revealed, they would now tell you.
So, from what I’ve gathered, this decision is a good one for the average person. Thanks for the explanation BobJam, Trekky, and Cam!
[quote=“ClassicalTeacher, post:10, topic:38679”]
So, from what I’ve gathered, this decision is a good one for the average person.
[/quote]It doesn’t PROTECT your privacy . . . the government can still snoop on you, but now they can no longer hide that they’ve been snooping on you, and why they’ve been snooping on you. So, in that sense it’s a step forward for the innocent citizen.
But that door swings both ways. The terrorist can now find out if he’s being snooped on, and if he/she finds out can go to ground.
It really depends on how much you trust your government to be pursuing terrorists ONLY. For example, they often fish with a net, casting a wide search and hoping they catch something worthwhile. And in that case, you, John/Jane Doe may be caught up in that net, and then it comes down to whether or not you trust your government to discriminate and determine that YOU are not a terrorist.
I can understand a legitimate frustration some government agents may have that now they are compelled to reveal they are snooping on terrorists (“they’re tying our hands”), but I DON’T trust the government to “discriminate” and I DON’T trust the government to separate ME from the terrorists. And there’s always the chance that the government will use their powers to pursue law abiding citizens that it just doesn’t like (Nixon and J. Edgar did that, and I definitely think BHO is on that path.)
It comes down to striking a balance between Civil Liberties and the ability of the government to pursue terrorists. That line is hard to draw sometimes, but right now it’s easy with BHO in office. I would err in favor of privacy for U.S. citizens.
But if we suffer another 9/11, that pendulum may swing the other way. There will likely be an emotional clamor for more restriction on Civil Liberties in favor of pursuing terrorists.
One hopes that cooler minds will prevail, but even for cooler minds it’s a dilemma.
My own preference is privacy for U.S. Citizens and Civil Liberties, but if I had a loved one killed in a terrorist attack I can see how I might change my view.
I don’t trust the government at all to only spy on terrorists… And if they do want to spy on terrorists, they can do so in a way that has judicial oversight.
I don’t trust the government to do ANYTHING right. About the only arm of government that I trust is the military. And maybe I shouldn’t trust the military too much, either, but right now I have more faith in our men and women in uniform than any bleating carp from the WH or the government.
Turning into? We’re pretty much already there. You can thank those ‘defenders of the constitution and liberty’ within the GOP like John McCain and Lindsey Graham for this.
Very well said. I think it’s very disturbing that the FBI is allowed to write their own search warrants!