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Cloud Communications Service Twilio Releases Two NSLs Sprung From Their Gag Order Cages

from the all-purpose-paperwork dept

Another communications platform has published National Security Letters it has received from the FBI. Twilio -- a San Francisco-based cloud communications platform -- has published two NSLs freed from the confines of their accompanying gag orders.

When Twilio receives requests that are issued without the review of a court, such as National Security Letters, Twilio will ask the agent to instead produce a court order or withdraw the nondisclosure component of the request.

Twilio requested judicial review of the nondisclosure requirement, and as a result, received permission from the U.S. Department of Justice to publish two National Security Letters, in addition to the letters authorizing Twilio to do so.

Twilio was also permitted to count the two National Security Letters in our semi-annual transparency report for the second half of 2017. Therefore, Twilio indicates receiving between 2 and 999 National Security Letters in the time range of July 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017.

Twilio says it will continue to challenge the gag orders attached by default to FBI NSLs, which should result in more published NSLs in the future. The two posted by Twilio are fairly recent. Both were received in May of last year. Both also contain the FBI's response letter letting Twilio know the gag orders had been lifted.

The first [PDF] of the two published lets Twilio know the FBI has agreed to lift the gag order. It also states the FBI is withdrawing its request for subscriber info. The second [PDF] is a little more interesting. The FBI agreed to lift the gag order, but requested Twilio give it a ring before notifying the affected customer.

Please be advised that the FBI has reviewed the nondisclosure requirement imposed in connection with the NSL at issue and determined that the facts and circumstances supporting nondislosure under 18 USC 2709(c) no longer continue to exist. Consequently, the government is lifting the nondisclosure requirement imposed in connection with the NSL at issue… [T]he FBI also asks that Twilio notify Special Agent [redacted] of the FBI Cincinnati Field Office, in the event Twilio chooses to inform the subscriber of the account at issue regarding the NSL request or any of the information set forth in that request…

This sounds like "assessment" stuff -- where the FBI rounds up everything it can obtain without a warrant to start building towards a preliminary investigation and possibly even the probable cause needed to continue pursuing a suspect. But the FBI office is seemingly willing to spook a subject in exchange for whatever minimal account info Twilio has on hand. That's a little strange, considering the gag order was lifted within a few months of the NSL being sent. The two published by Twilio are unlike the NSLs published elsewhere, some of which are closer to a decade old at this point.

Whatever the case, it's more transparency from another service provider, adding to the body of public knowledge on the FBI's use of NSLs.


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