by Mike Masnick
Tue, Oct 20th 2009 10:48pm
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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