Unknown Tech Company Fighting Back Against FBI's National Security Letter Gag Order

from the nice-to-hear dept

Last year Twitter was willing to stand up to the feds when they tried to issue a so-called 2703(d) order to try to reveal info about some Wikileaks collaborators. A (d) order is like a warrant, but with fewer privacy protections, but Twitter fought hard to at least let users know that the government was seeking to get their information, in order to allow them to fight back. Of course, the (d) order process is pretty obscure. Much more commonly used is the so-called national security letters (NSLs) process, which is a favorite of the FBI's. The FBI is also well known for abusing NSLs, and despite various slaps on the wrist, appears to continue to use them regularly. Basically, it lets them write a letter demanding information from an intermediary, along with a complete gag order about it.

The gag orders are especially problematic, and thankfully some judges have questioned those gag orders. But because so much around NSLs is secret, it's tough to know much about what's going on with them. A few years ago, an ISP owner famously fought an NSL he was issued, but it took years before Nicholas Merril, CEO of Calyx Internet Access, could even admit that he had done so.

Wired is now reporting that some other company is now fighting an NSL order from the FBI, but the details are pretty sparse:
Sometime earlier this year, a provider of communication services in the United States "perhaps a phone company, perhaps Twitter" got a letter from the FBI demanding it turn over information on one, or possibly even hundreds, of its customers. The letter instructed the company to never disclose the existence of the demand to anyone "in particular, the target of the investigation..."


But this time, the company that received the request pushed back. It told the agency that it wanted to tell its customer that he or she was being targeted, which would give the customer a chance to fight the request in court, as a group of Twitter users did last year when the Justice Department sought their records under a different kind of request. The minor defiance in this latest case was enough to land the NSL request in a federal court docket last Friday, where the government filed a request for a court order to force the company to adhere to the gag order.
The Justice Department, of course, is insisting that the gag order must be in put in place or it "may endanger the national security of the United States." Given just how many of these NSLs the government issues, at some point it has to be realized that they're crying wolf tens of thousands of times per year. Somehow it's difficult to believe that actually giving people a right to protect their own privacy rights would endanger national security thousands of times per month...

Filed Under: fbi, national security letters, wikileaks
Companies: twitter

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Loki, 16 Mar 2012 @ 1:05am

    is insisting that the gag order must be in put in place or it "may endanger the national security of the United States.

    Personally, I think the biggest threat to the security of the United States is the federal government.

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
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

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