Judge Keeps Gag Order In Place On ISP Boss Over Feds Demand For Info On Customer

from the does-this-make-you-feel-safer? dept

The government has the ability to issue “national security letters” that let them demand information without a court warrant and at the same time gag those who are forced to reveal the info. Given such power, it’s no surprise that the Justice Department abused it widely and conveniently forgot to report many of the uses when some oversight was attempted. The whole setup of NSLs seems highly questionable. What’s wrong with actually getting a warrant? Adding a gag order to it is especially troubling — so it was great to see an anonymous ISP owner pushback on such a use of NSLs. Last year, an appeals court limited when such NSLs could be used, tightening the standard. However, the lower court has said that, even with these tighter restrictions, the government’s use of NSLs against this ISP was proper. Of course, it’s difficult to determine if this actually makes sense, because the gov’t revealed secret info to the judge that even those on the other side of the case were unable to see. The problem, obviously, is that there’s simply no way to know if this is legit or not — but any opportunity you give the government to say “just trust us” on being able to get otherwise private info with no oversight seems like an area ripe for abuse.

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Comments on “Judge Keeps Gag Order In Place On ISP Boss Over Feds Demand For Info On Customer”

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Anonymous Coward says:

It’s known that there are some abuses within the NSL realm. With a NSL, any one can find the “Mike, This is your Mother” conversation post.

Do you understand Google Wave? It’s existed for several years, but perhaps in other forms to fit the needs of others. Seems they just needed to figure out how to make it commercial or something. Wave didn’t come into existence overnight. It just, um, made sense to… Uh…

How is your mother doing, Mike?

elpookie (profile) says:


Check and balances. Our government is based on this basic principle. Extraordinary measures, such as the suspension of Habeaus Corpus, are generally reserved for times of war. Unfortunately ever since VietNam our spinless congress has allowed this country to participate in wars which are really not “wars.” To declare war requires an Act of Congress. As long as Congress does not do so, the Executive Power gets out of balance and the use and abuse of it goes unchecked. NSL’s are but a manifestation of the problem and it results in a Star Chamber form of justice which the Framers (Constitution) were attempting to address. “Power corrups, absolute Power corrupts absolutly”.

Ronald J Riley (profile) says:

In complete agreement.

This is a very good post. The essence of effective systems is check and balance and in this case neither is in place. Absolute power does corrupt absolutely and it was inevitable that this kind of power with virtually no versight would cause problems.

Incidentally, a similar situation existed in the courts from around 1920 to about the sixties. Big companies could pick their own forum for patent disputes and during that time the courts did not uphold any small entity patents. Needless to say that a rather nasty corporate culture of entitlement developed around this situation.

Patent pirating companies whine about the Eastern Texas court because that court does not allow the kinds of abusive litigation tactics which those companies had come to view as their inalienable right.

Ronald J. Riley,

I am speaking only on my own behalf.
President – http://www.PIAUSA.org – RJR at PIAUSA.org
Executive Director – http://www.InventorEd.org – RJR at InvEd.org
Senior Fellow – http://www.PatentPolicy.org
President – Alliance for American Innovation
Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
Washington, DC
Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 – 9 am to 8 pm EST.

iamtheky (profile) says:

Re: In complete agreement.

“Patent pirating companies whine about the Eastern Texas court….” (along with every reasonably logical soul, and we whine about the judge, not the court)

If you are truly of the auspice that this one judge is handling patent law correctly you are not in “complete agreement”, that is assured. I dont believe he allows any litigation tactics at all, just judicially assisted extortion.

Anonymous1 says:

How about this for a question: If the gag order really can’t be lifted because of some BS about “ongoing investigation” you really have to call question the accuracy of this decision. So it’s a major threat to national security for a single person FIVE YEARS later.
Hint: If this person or persons were a threat they either have already been picked up (in the last FIVE YEARS) or they are NOT a threat. In which case the government is lying through their damn teeth about this being a “national security” issue. So sorry. National security investigations of pressing importance don’t take five years to put together. Luckily this judge is probably going to get his hand slapped on appeal, and probably on direct order from the Supreme Court.

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