Court Limits, But Doesn't Eliminate, Secrecy Of National Security Letters

from the partial-win dept

The Patriot Act, among other things, allows law enforcement to issue "National Security Letters" to ISPs and telcos to obtain certain information about individuals. The letters are, as the name implies, designed for situations where national security is at stake, and a more thorough process of going through legal channels to gain approval would be a serious threat to national security. Except, of course, that's not how things have worked in practice. The FBI was found to have engaged in "serious misuse" of NSLs on a regular basis, issuing tens of thousands of them. Even worse, part of the rules surrounding NSLs are that they must be kept entirely secret. This raises very serious First Amendment questions. While a lower court agreed that the secrecy on NSLs violated the Constitution, an Appeals Court, that had initially seemed skeptical has allowed the secrecy to continue, though with some limitations.

Rather than saying secrecy was okay, if revealing the NSL would create "interference with diplomatic relations, or danger to the life or physical safety of any person" (the old rule), the court has said the rule should be that secrecy is allowed if revealing the NSL "may result in an enumerated harm that is related to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities." It is certainly more of a limitation, though some may note that it may not make much of a difference in actual application. NSLs are still likely to be abused, and it's unlikely that most ISPs or telcos on the receiving end of such NSLs will feel concerned enough to challenge them.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: fbi, first amendment, gag orders, national security letters, nsls


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    carroll trust, 20 Mar 2009 @ 9:58am

    NATIONAL SECURITY CASE - HMG ATTORNEY GENERAL CARROLL CASE

    NATIONAL SECURITY CASE - HMG ATTORNEY GENERAL CARROLL CASE
    The Carroll Foundation Trust Criminal Case - Britain's Longest Running Largest Organised Criminal Conspiracy and Corruption Case $ One Billion Dollars ( $ 1.000.000.000 ) Embezzlement of Funds Criminal Liquidation of Assets on a World Wide basis.
    GJH Carroll primary victim subject of personal protection security following violent attacks with the use of firearms other weapons.

    www.CARROLLFOUNDATIONTRUST.ORG

    BREAKING NEWS:
    HSBC - KROLL N Cooper - Queen's Bankers / COUTTS BANK / BAE SYSTEMS TAG AVIATION / SLAUGHTER & MAY - G James S Hall L Wylde / SALANS - L Rosenblatt A Gaines M Alexander.

    OFFSHORE
    International Criminal Syndicate - Goodman Derrick Ian Montrose - R Bray & Co - Haslers
    J O'Shea M J Chappell - DLA PIPER - R Lane - Smith - A Bugg - N Pike - LG - A R Clarke HSBC.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Notice: Edwards Duthie - GJH Carroll Solicitors - LOCKDOWN - The London Residence - Eaton Square Belgravia Westminster London SW1 - Break - Ins - Theft Burglarys - Forged and Falsified Lease Documents Vizards Wyeth / Boodle Hatfield Grosvenor Estates - LOCKDOWN - The Kent and Essex Police Forces
    New Scotland Yard London UK - LOCKDOWN - US State Department - FBI Washington Field Office USA
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Notice: Kingston Smith - Edward Robinson Westmore Brennand - Carroll Trust Auditors - LOCKDOWN - GJH Carroll Trust -LOCKDOWN - New Scotland Yard London UK - US State Department - FBI Washington Field Office USA
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Full and Complete Criminal Evidence - LOCKDOWN - at Britain’s Scotland Yard - Sir Paul Stephenson Commissioner - Metropolitan Police New Scotland Yard London UK - US State Department FBI - within a major - Cross-Border - International Criminal Conspiracy and Corruption Case.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.