by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
fbi, nicholas merrill, nsl, patriot act

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.

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  1. identicon
    DogBreath, 15 May 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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