by Mike Masnick
Tue, Nov 6th 2007 11:21am
It will probably come as little surprise, but the Justice Depatment has now made it official that it plans to appeal the ruling that found that the parts of the Patriot Act that expanded the power of so-called "National Security Letters" was unconstitutional. The issue here is that the Justice Department has been using these letters to get private info from telcos, ISPs and others without any oversight. Beyond not even needing to get a judge's approval, the FBI has apparently been so disorganized that it tracks the use of these NSLs on index cards and has had trouble keeping track of how often they're used. Not surprisingly, a court found this all problematic, but the Justice Department continues to insist that it's just fine and dandy. In response, the anonymous small ISP owner who filed the original lawsuit has spoken out against the policy, noting that the gag order imposed on recipients of national security letters makes it "impossible... to discuss their specific concerns with the public, the press and Congress." He also stated: "This seems to be counterintuitive to everything I assumed about this country's commitment to free speech and the value of political discourse." Indeed. It's yet to be explained why there isn't any oversight here at all. Given the opportunity for abuse when there's no oversight, can someone give a good reason why these things should be allowed? They can be just as effective with a judge approving them. However, with no oversight and the corresponding gag order, it seems like an open playing field for abuse of the system. Given that the FBI can't even track how they're using these tools, it seems even more dangerous.
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