Back in 2004 Calyx Internet Access was hit with an NSL (National Security Letter) which demanded the ISP give up information and data on its users. After refusing the FBI request the founder of CIA (Nicholas Merrill) filed a suit against the FBI in what became known as Doe V. Ashcroft. Now 11 years later, a federal court has invalidated the gag order that comes with being served a National Security Letter. Although the FBI never got the information requested of Merrill, federal law says recipients of an NSL cannot reveal the scope or information the FBI requests of them.Nicholas Merrill's gag comes off in 90 days!Click To Tweet
Now that the court has invalidated that rule in this case, Merrill will finally be able to reveal exactly what the FBI asks for in their NSL filings, though Merrill will have to wait 90 days as the court has given the government that time to file an appeal. It’s unclear if the FBI will file an appeal but one has to imagine they will, it wouldn’t look too good if citizens actually knew what the FBI was probing for.
“Today’s decision will finally allow Mr. Merrill to shed light on the scope of the FBI’s claimed authority under the NSL statute, and to explain how the FBI’s interpretation is deeply problematic and potentially unlawful,” stated Jonathan Manes, supervising attorney in the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic. “If the recent revelations and debates over mass surveillance have taught us anything, it is that there can be no meaningful democratic oversight if the public does not know how the law has been interpreted behind closed doors,” Manes added.
We’ll be watching this one closely and report back any further developments as they come in.
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