A federal district judge ruled last week that the FBI’s National Security Letters (NSLs) are unconstitutional. NSLs request that entities such as telecommunication companies, Internet service providers, and credit bureaus provide to the FBI subscriber information including subscribers’ private communications. The most controversial aspect of NSLs is their requirement that a recipient of an NSL not reveal to anyone that they’d received the NSL. I first wrote about NSLs last year (Privacy vs Security, 21st Century style) when an unnamed phone company said “No” to a NSL that they had received from the FBI. The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) defended the unnamed phone company against a lawsuit that was brought by the Justice Department.
Forbes calls the ruling “a landmark court victory for privacy advocates” in an article titled Here’s The Judge’s Order Banning The FBI’s Secret Requests For Companies’ User Data. The Forbes article speculates about the identity of the unnamed phone company.
Friday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California ends with
The Court concludes that the nondisclosure provision . . . violates the First Amendment and the separation of powers principles. The Government is therefore enjoined from issuing NSLs . . . or from enforcing the nondisclosure provision in this or any other case.
The government has 90 days to appeal her decision.
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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695