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...


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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2012 @ 10:55am

    "A phone company" fighting back against the government? Yeah right.

     

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    AG Wright (profile), Mar 15th, 2012 @ 10:55am

    But but

    Terrorism and child pornography and stealing and stuff.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2012 @ 11:04am

    "may endanger the national security of the United States."

    "There's always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet [...]"

    Also: terrorists, pedophiles, serial muppet emos, etc.,etc.

     

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      rubberpants, Mar 15th, 2012 @ 11:10am

      Re: "may endanger the national security of the United States."

      Sure, mock the policy if you wish, but you'll come crying when muslim terrorists start making unauthorized copies of child pornography to post on Wikileaks over their jail-broken tethering apps.

       

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        Mohamed, Mar 15th, 2012 @ 11:14am

        Re: Re: "may endanger the national security of the United States."

        Damn it! I keep telling them to license that shit!

         

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        Manfred Manfriend, Mar 15th, 2012 @ 11:20am

        Re: Re: "may endanger the national security of the United States."

        >Sure, mock the policy if you wish, but you'll come crying when muslim terrorists start making unauthorized copies of child pornography to post on Wikileaks over their jail-broken tethering apps.

        Is that like needing a tax stamp for individual use of marijuana? People need to license their copies of illegal shit?

         

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        gyffes, Mar 15th, 2012 @ 12:35pm

        Re: Re: "may endanger the national security of the United States."

        Those bastards! They wouldn't dare, would they?

         

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    Torg (profile), Mar 15th, 2012 @ 11:54am

    At what point did "national security of the United States" become synonymous with "credibility of the FBI"?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2012 @ 12:52pm

    This sounds like...

    This sounds like a job for the EFF.

     

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    TtfnJohn (profile), Mar 15th, 2012 @ 12:59pm

    Sadly, even for the concept of National Security, the National Security card gets played so often and so abusively that when the phrase is heard the first impulse is to assign it to the liar bin alongside the flyers and come ons to get a shiny new credit card because you've magically pre-qualified.

    I can see the very rare case where it makes sense. Counteracting that is the FBI's well earned reputation of going on fishing expeditions must because they seem to want to. I'm not just picking on the FBI here as the RCMP has a similar well earned reputation.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2012 @ 2:20pm

    Fucking Idiots

    Will americans every realize that they live in the planet's number-one moronic walled police-state?

    Of course, they would have to learn what that means first, and that could mean someone missing a re-run of hee-haw and an ass-crack scratching session.

     

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    Thomas (profile), Mar 15th, 2012 @ 5:17pm

    FBI...

    does what they d*** well please. The DOJ doesn't care if the FBI abuses their authority. After all, hunting for terrorists is much more important than any rules of laws!

     

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      The Devil's Coachman (profile), Mar 15th, 2012 @ 6:33pm

      Re: FBI...

      well, even though the odds against are galactic, if I were to ever receive one of these idiotic letters, the first thing I would do would be to make copies of it, and plaster them up on random telephone poles everywhere. then, I would send them to all the media available. lastly, I would deny ever receiving it, and claim they don't have any verifiable evidence of me doing so, so it must have been lost in the mail and erroneously given to a merry prankster, who was obliged to to do the right thing.

       

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    Loki, Mar 16th, 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.

     

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