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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Filed Under: gag order, national security letters


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  1. 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.
    Affiliations:
    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.

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