FBI Drops Another Questionable NSL After Microsoft Challenges It In Court
from the fighting-back dept
Microsoft has announced that its challenge against a National Security Letter (NSL) has finally been unsealed after the FBI dropped the request. If you’re not familiar with them, the NSL is a process by which the FBI can basically demand a company hand over just about anything, by claiming its a matter of national security. As we’ve discussed, National Security Letters — which come with built in gag orders — are very rarely challenged. Two years ago, we noted that despite 50,000 NSLs, many of them later determined to be abusive, there had been only four challenges and the FBI simply dropped the requests on two of them.
Since then, it seems clear that there has been an uptick in companies challenging though they’re still hidden by the gag orders. Microsoft specifically challenged that gag order, leading the FBI to withdraw its letter. But, that also means that the FBI doesn’t get in any trouble at all for abusing the NSL process and fishing for information. Already, one court has found those letters unconstitutional, but that decision has been stayed while it goes through the lengthy appeals process. In the meantime, the FBI gets to keep fishing. It’s good to see Microsoft challenging them, but this story could just as easily be “FBI gets away with yet another fishing expedition.”