Very Few Companies Fight Back Against Patriot Act Gag Orders

from the sad-to-hear dept

A few years ago, when we wrote about Nicholas Merrill's successful fight to reveal that his ISP had been gagged by a "national security letter" (NSL) from the FBI, we noted that "For every Nicholas Merrill, you can bet that thousands of others just gave in and didn't put up a fight -- even if the requests were bogus." It appears that was absolutely true.

Wired reports that, in the past few years, since the FBI was told it needed to at least tell companies they could challenge the gag order on NSLs, only four challenges have been issued on over 50,000 NSLs. In two of the four cases, the FBI backed down and let the company notify the individual. As Wired notes, it had asked the FBI the same question a couple months ago, and the FBI claimed (incorrectly) that "there are no stats" and suggested that no one had challenged it other than Merrill.

Remember, NSLs are requests from the government (along with a gag order), but they are not subpoenas nor do they have any real oversight. Yet the FBI gets to issue tens of thousands of them, asking companies for information -- and imposing a strict gag order on them -- and most companies just roll over and do it.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), May 15th, 2012 @ 6:43am

    Hold on...

    Yet the FBI gets to issue tens of thousands of them, asking companies for information -- and imposing a strict gag order on them -- and most companies just roll over and do it.

    But we need CISPA so that private companies will share information with the government!

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2012 @ 7:28am

    This really shouldn't be a surprise. What is the benefit to the company to fight it?

    It costs them substantial legal costs and effort to challenge and if they win, which is never certain going in, they may get some positive publicity. It's a huge risk.

    If they don't, they incur no appreciable costs, the government is happy, and nobody knows.

     

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

  3.  
    icon
    Tux (profile), May 15th, 2012 @ 7:28am

    Re: Hold on...

    Exactly. I love that mocking.

     

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

  4.  
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    The eejit (profile), May 15th, 2012 @ 7:53am

    Re:

    ...until now.

     

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

  5.  
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    Thomas (profile), May 15th, 2012 @ 7:58am

    Rolling over..

    and doing as the Gestapo tells you is far preferable to a one way ticket to Gitmo. All the federal spooks should simply be lumped together and called Gestapo, since that's where they get their rules and training manuals.

     

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

  6.  
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    Overcast (profile), May 15th, 2012 @ 8:16am

    We would expect no less from the King's iron fisted thugs.

     

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

  7.  
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    Chargone (profile), May 15th, 2012 @ 8:32am

    Re:

    hey now, no need to go insulting the monarchs of the world there...

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2012 @ 9:21am

    The Uinted States and its sycophants like Canada, Australia, Great Britain are Police States.

    Are you really just catching on now?

     

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

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2012 @ 9:22am

    The United States and its sycophants like Canada, Australia, Great Britain are Police States.

    Are you really just catching on now?

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    DogBreath, May 15th, 2012 @ 9:27am

    Re: Re:

    Especially in Thailand...

    American Arrested for Insulting Thai King

    May 27, 2011

    BANGKOK — An American citizen has been arrested in Thailand and accused of insulting the country’s monarchy in the latest in a string of cases highlighting the strict and controversial laws protecting the ailing king.

    The American, Lerpong Wichaicommart, has been charged with using the Internet to disseminate information that insults or threatens the monarchy, the Thai authorities said on Friday.

    “He violated the law by writing articles and posted them on a Web site,” Tharit Pengdit, the director of Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation, said in an interview. Mr. Tharit declined to disclose the contents of the posted material but said the case involved three offenses “which violate state security.”

    Mr. Lerpong, 54, is being held without bail. Taken together, the charges against him could add up to a 22-year prison term.

     

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

  11.  
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    DogBreath, May 15th, 2012 @ 9:35am

    Re: Re: Re:

    And the followup...

    Thailand sentences American to prison for insulting king

    December 09, 2011

    American citizen Lerpong Wichaikhammat, aka Joe Gordon, gets a 30-month sentence for insulting Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The U.S. criticizes the ruling.

    Reporting from Bangkok, Thailand, and New Delhi — A U.S. citizen Thursday received a 30-month prison sentence in Thailand for insulting the king, the latest punishment handed down under a law critics see as archaic, prompting the U.S. government to denounce the ruling as excessive and a violation of free speech.

    The case, filed under Thailand's lese-majeste, or "injured majesty," laws, also involves issues of citizenship and jurisdiction. Thai-born Lerpong Wichaikhammat, 55, a U.S. resident for the last three decades, was convicted of posting online a Thai translation of "The King Never Smiles," an unofficial biography, several years ago while living in Colorado.

    Lerpong, whose American name is Joe Gordon, was arrested in May during a visit to Thailand to seek treatment for arthritis and high blood pressure. He pleaded guilty in October. The Bangkok criminal court halved his original five-year term, citing his confession.

    "In Thailand they put people in jail without proof," Lerpong said Thursday, his arms and legs shackled, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. "I was born in Thailand, but this does not mean I am Thai. I am proud to be an American citizen."

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2012 @ 10:36am

    a list of those companies would be quite handy then as it would reveal which ones had little if any concern for their customers. once named and shamed, perhaps their would be an attitude change. perhaps with it also being known how many undisputed requests were made by the FBI, their may be some questions asked as to why?

     

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

  13.  
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    Thomas (profile), May 15th, 2012 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: (jail in Thailand)

    Lots of politicians in the U.S. would love it if they could have people who criticize them thrown into jail for 10 years or so. Just think how many people could wind up in jail.

    Remind me never to consider visiting thailand.

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2012 @ 3:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Fuck them AND their idiot king.

     

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

  15.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), May 15th, 2012 @ 6:20pm

    Re:

    The bigger much better question is why the hell does the FBI get to request data in this fashion?

    "A national security letter (NSL) is a form of administrative subpoena used by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and reportedly by other U.S. government agencies including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense. They require no probable cause or judicial oversight."
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_security_letter

    So we have now a secret special law enforcement operation not bound by the rule of law. The argument of but the terrorists will know we are looking into them in hollow.
    Even give their own proclamations of having stopped threats, they put into motion, come no where near the numbers of these letters (or post-it's) sent out.

    Businesses do not want to fight for their customers simply because we know what happens to people who try to stand up against the Government. You can be "randomly" selected for extra screening on every flight you get onto. You can have your business shut down as they do an "investigation" into something wrong. There is a long list of dirty tricks no one wants to talk about, because to admit the US Government does this makes them no better than 3rd World Dictators. (well maybe slightly better they aren't just shooting them on the streets here...yet. But 1 way trips to Gitmo from anywhere in the world are kinda not nice).

    It is time to force them to reveal how many they actually issued, how many times they neglected to point out there is a chance to fight them, and how many of them lead to anything useful. If they issued 10,000 and it leads to 10,000 arrests and convictions for bad things... it is an evil that is doing good that might be acceptable. If out of 10,000 1 lead to anything more it might be time to force them to get a more targeted system working, rather than giving them blanket powers that at best are just being used to replace real investigation.

     

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

  16.  
    identicon
    Paul Keating, May 16th, 2012 @ 2:53am

    FBI not only Culprit

    The FBI is not alone. I represent domain name registrars and my clients frequently receive subpoenas - including Grand Jury Subpoenas. Here is a typical warning at the bottom of the most recent one.

    NOTE: DISCLOSURE OF THIS SUBOENA TO THE PARTIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE ABOVE-REFERNECED ACCOUNTS COULD SERIOUSLY IMPEDE AN ON-GOING CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION AND IS PROHIBITED. PRUSUANT TO NRS172.245, A PERSON OR WITNESS SUBPOENAED TO PROVIDE EVIDENCE OR INFORMATION TO THE GRAND JURY SHALL NOT DISCLOSE SAID EVIDENCE OR INFORMATION, NO SHALL SUCH PERSON OR WITNESS DISCLOSE THEIR KNOWLEDGE CONCERNING SAID GRAND JURY SUBPOENA WITHOUT A COURT ORDER.

     

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


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