It looks like dhalps beat me to it, and linked to an excellent article. Judge Victor Marrero has ruled that the part of the PATRIOT Act discussing National Security Letters is unconstitutional, saying it violates the first and fourth amendments. Ars Technica has a good explanation of what happened. The basic idea is that these are letters which force people (read: ISPs, librarians, bankers, etc) to give information to the FBI, ostensibly so they can fight terrorism. Moreover, they come with “gag” restrictions which make it illegal to tell anyone else that you received such a letter. and there’s no judicial oversight, so it’s basically a way for the FBI to get any information they want while making it illegal to fight back (to bring this to court in the first place, the plaintiff had to remain anonymous and file as a John Doe with the ACLU). The government is likely to appeal; this same thing happened in 2004 with Judge Marrero, the government appealed, and the Secound Circuit sent it back to him after Congress revised the law in question. Nonetheless, this is definitely a (small) step in the right direction.
Posts tagged ‘ars technica’
As tech/legal blog Ars Technica reports, it seems that the Bush administration is trying to retroactively pardon the telecoms for violating the privacy and Fourth Amendment rights of their customers. Remember back in 2005 when it was revealed that the NSA uses warrantless wiretaps of most phone lines? Well, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, bastion of freedom that they are, continue to battle AT&T and the government over it. They have fought past the State Secrets issues, and have continued to advocate for the privacy of US citizens.
Well, now it seems that there is an appropriations request sent to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that would retroactively pardon the telecoms of all wrongdoing concerning the warrantless wiretaps. If passed, it will kill the EFF’s case dead in its tracks. I strongly suspect that if Congress read this legislation it would not pass, but it’s been pretty well established at this point that very few lawmakers actually read the legislation they vote on. As always, you can write to your Congresspeople about the issue (though the default text in that link is only about the warrantless wiretaps in general, not this latest development). We’ll see what happens…