Monday, June 26, 2006

Ever seen a National Security Letter?

Raw Story has a copy of one here(warning PDF). It is part of their report on the victory of a group of Connecticut libraries in their fight against Soviet style "law enforcement".
The NSL is a little known statute in the Patriot Act that permits law enforcement to obtain records of people not necessarily suspected of any wrongdoing, without a court order. As part of the NSL, those served with the document are gagged and prohibited from disclosing that they have even been served.

"When I and my colleagues received FBI National Security Letters demanding access to our patron's records, I knew that this power had had already been declared unconstitutional by a district court in New York," said Library Connection Vice President Peter Chase. "The government was telling Congress that it didn't use the Patriot Act against libraries and that no one's rights had been violated."

The group sought the help of the American Civil Liberties Union in arguing their case.

RAW STORY reported last month that the FBI had dropped its defense of the National Security Letter (NSL) gag provision after a federal judge lifted the gag order and rejected the government's argument that identifying the plaintiff would pose a threat to national security on September 9 of last year.

The libraries were never forced to comply with the demand and the records were never turned over to the authorities. According to the ACLU, the librarians might have been willing to comply with a similar demand if it had been approved by a judge.

The FBI has now abandoned the demand the request for information altogether.
One small step for mankind....


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