FBI Drops Another Questionable NSL After Microsoft Challenges It In Court

from the fighting-back dept

Microsoft has announced that its challenge against a National Security Letter (NSL) has finally been unsealed after the FBI dropped the request. If you're not familiar with them, the NSL is a process by which the FBI can basically demand a company hand over just about anything, by claiming its a matter of national security. As we've discussed, National Security Letters -- which come with built in gag orders -- are very rarely challenged. Two years ago, we noted that despite 50,000 NSLs, many of them later determined to be abusive, there had been only four challenges and the FBI simply dropped the requests on two of them.

Since then, it seems clear that there has been an uptick in companies challenging though they're still hidden by the gag orders. Microsoft specifically challenged that gag order, leading the FBI to withdraw its letter. But, that also means that the FBI doesn't get in any trouble at all for abusing the NSL process and fishing for information. Already, one court has found those letters unconstitutional, but that decision has been stayed while it goes through the lengthy appeals process. In the meantime, the FBI gets to keep fishing. It's good to see Microsoft challenging them, but this story could just as easily be "FBI gets away with yet another fishing expedition."

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    That One Guy (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 12:32am

    Funny that...

    It's almost as though they knew that with a target willing and able to fight back, they might have a bit of trouble defending the NSL and gag order in court, and so dropped it before they were forced to.

    Pure, time saving coincidence I'm sure.

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2014 @ 3:06am

    Assholes. They are dropping them because they don't want the NSL to go to court and be declared unconstitutional (again). So they'd rather compromise their current case than risk having ALL NSL's be declared invalid.

    Or maybe there's just nothing to compromise, because the world won't end if someone talks about a certain NSL, and it just means FBI has been abusing them all along.

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

  3. identicon
    AJ, May 23rd, 2014 @ 5:46am


    It's like being caught with your hand in the cookie jar! Then removing your hand with no cookie because you know you've been caught... doing so because you know that you can't get your hand smacked unless you actually take the cookie... regardless of intent..Imagine if the rest of us operated under those rules.

    To them, It's only breaking the rules if they get caught??!! And they are supposed to be the people protecting us?

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2014 @ 8:04am

    The FBI's request was so vital to national security, that they decided to drop the request instead of pursue it...

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

  5. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 2:20pm

    Re: AJ

    "And they are supposed to be the people protecting us?"

    Haven't you heard? The FBI is now all about "national security". "National security" these days doesn't mean the security of the nation, it means the security of the government.

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

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