Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Judge Refuses to Lift 5-Year-Old Patriot Act Gag Order

David Kravets writes on Threat Level:

A federal judge on Tuesday declined to remove a gag order imposed on the president of a small ISP who wants to reveal the contents of a national security letter he received from the FBI.

The NSL demanded the president of the New York company provide the government with e-mails from a customer the government deemed a threat. An NSL, a type of self-issued subpoena fortified by the Patriot Act, allows the FBI to obtain telecommunication, financial and credit records relevant to a government investigation without a court warrant.

The case last hit the courts in December, when the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a decision with Sonia Sotomayor in the majority, narrowed the standard by which recipients of NSLs must keep mum.

Those supplying the requested data to the government are forbidden from disclosing their mandatory cooperation, and face up to five years in prison for breaching the gag. The government issues about 50,000 NSLs each year, and an internal audit showed widespread government abuse in connection to them.

On Tuesday, a New York judge ruling in the lawsuit brought by the anonymous ISP president, declined to lift the gag placed on him, despite the new gagging standards announced by the 2nd Circuit. The lower court judge’s decision was based on secret evidence the FBI provided.

More here.


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