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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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2009 @ 12:25am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    elpookie (profile), 21 Oct 2009 @ 3:52am


    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".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    NullOp, 21 Oct 2009 @ 5:52am


    The question of whether the feds will abuse the use of NSLs is not a question. Any group given such power will, sooner or later, and usually sooner, abuse the power. It is as certain as the seasons and the sunrise. Once a group is 'special' and has power, they MUST use it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), 21 Oct 2009 @ 6:15am

    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 - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      iamtheky (profile), 21 Oct 2009 @ 10:51am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Overcast (profile), 21 Oct 2009 @ 6:36am

    Tyranny at work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jesse, 21 Oct 2009 @ 7:14am

    What about ACTA

    It's pretty hard to trust when we already KNOW the system is being abused.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous1, 21 Oct 2009 @ 11:32am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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