Court Rules Against National Security Letters and Provisions of the Patriot Act

gavel2In a victory for civil liberties, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has struck down provisions of the Patriot Act that prevent people from disclosing that they have received national security letters.

The gag order provision has long been challenged by civil liberties groups as unconstitutional but both Democrats and Republicans voted for it. The Court held that the government has the burden to justify such gag orders and struck down limitations on judicial review. For a copy of the opinion, click here.

The lawsuit was filed in 2004 after an Internet Service Provider (ISP) received an NSL and the ACLU is still being prevented from disclosing its client’s identity.

The ruling upholds the lower court opinion of Judge Victor Marrero of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. For a copy of his opinion, click here.

For the statement from the ACLU, click here.

For the full story, click here and here.

10 thoughts on “Court Rules Against National Security Letters and Provisions of the Patriot Act”

  1. Recently Obama Signed a One Year Extension To The Patriot Act.

    It does not take much knowledge of history to understand how a corrupt U.S. Government could use National Security Letters under the Patriot Act—As A Political or Economic Weapon.
    Currently in the name of fighting terrorism, U.S. Government can use National Security Letters to search a Citizen’s private information and records without having to provide specific facts—the person’s information sought pertains to a foreign power or agent of a foreign power. Government can impose National Security Letters without probable cause on your employer, your business client(s) credit card providers, even your relationships. After you receive a National Security Letter, under current law you can’t tell anyone. National Security Letters if used by a tyrannical U.S. Government, could be very threatening to Americans when you consider methods used by other governments. For example in Nazi Germany, the Gestapo routinely targeted and damaged business people and companies that refused to support the Nazi Government by—interrogating their customers—about them. Not surprisingly targeted business people and companies found it difficult to make a living after their frightened customers and clients distanced themselves after Gestapo interrogation. Some German corporations with ties to the Reich government used the Gestapo to scare off their business rivals’ associates and customers—to take their business. A corrupt U.S. Government could as easily use National Security Letters in the same manner and to intimidate Americans exercising First Amendment Rights.

    Congress needs to pass legislation that prevents Government using National Security Letters to investigate Americans without first demonstrating a clear standard of probable cause.

  2. rafflaw:

    Or maybe because the Congress has seen the enemy, and in the words of Pogo, “he is us.”

  3. I think Congress has been afraid to go after the felons in the White House because they bought into the fear tactics used by Republicans that they would call them “soft on terror”. I hope that this next Congress mans up and goes after these war criminals.

  4. As to the question of why Congress would pass such a provision, much less the entire Pat Act, my belief is that we see a picture of cowardice leading to submission. If you’ve been in Congress for a while you have found your ethics/idealism subsumed by the warmth of being accepted into the community of insiders resident within the beltway. In order to continue as a member in good standing (and of course being invited to the “best” parties)of the Pundit Politician Complex (AKA: Democracy’s courtiers & Courtesans) you have to prove your cynicism by swallowing the common wisdom of your betters.

    When 9/11 hit that “common wisdom” was: “Now everything haa changed!” That phrase meant that our democratic ideals and institutions go out the window as we defend the Homeland (Fatherland?) from the predations of brown-skinned foreigners.
    Unfortunately, this was not the “defining” American moment that they wanted us to believe. Anyone remember Pearl Harbor, The Civil War, Great Depression for instance? While it is true that at those crises there were attempts to abridge civil liberties,
    they were struck down(habeas corpus/Civil War) and/or later apologies (too late perhaps) to Japanese Americans.

    In truth nothing had changed except the tragedy of the deaths of innocents, their loved ones mourning and/or the re-realization of our country’s ongoing vulnerability. We should have remained the same nation, under law, that we were always supposed to be.
    Democrats and Republican legislator’s, however, were cowed by the common wisdom and the administration’s lies, into approving an illegal war and the shredding of our Constitution. This was done in a panic of fear, bolstered by the need to continue to maintain their status within the “in crowd.” Those courageous enough to protest faced attacks and marginalization for their speaking truth to power. The Patriot Act is an unspeakable obscenity casting a shadow over our national consciousness and those responsible at all levels must be held to account. Will they be though?

  5. Agreed to everyone above. I don’t know what’s going on with Congress that they keep agreeing to a dictatorship. This law clearly violated seperation of powers and puts our populace right down there with the East German Stazi State. In too many cases US citizens have colluded with the abolishment of our rights, either through silence or active assent. It is scary to oppose this govt. as they will take action against anyone they believe won’t go along with them. This govt. is in our records, our lives, at the most intimate level. It’s also a taser state. This puts tremendous power of threat to dissent. I hope this information keeps coming out and we throw a shoe about it!

    I’ve been thinking that wherever these people go, protesters could put rows of shoes before them. It’s peaceful and makes a statment.

  6. We’ve seen several court decisons negating some of the unlawful provisions of the Patriot Act (I wince whenever I say or type that). New admissions this week from both Bush and Cheney about their falsehoods in the lead up to the attack and occupation of Iraq, their involvement in authorizing torture and outing Valerie Plame and STILL no one is in jail. They firmly belive they’re going to get away with clean. The sad truth is they’re probably right.

  7. I am with you Mespo. These NSL’s are just another way of getting around the need for warrants. Kudo’s to the appellate court on this one, but they didn’t go far enough. If you have to secretly investigate someone a warrant must be obtained. At least a FISA warrant. What has to happen for people to realize how much we have lost in the Bush years? Maybe Mespo was right that we were saner in the 60’s and 70’s when demonstrations and protests were “allowed” and there were no “free speech zones”.

  8. How ridiculous and un-American for a Court to have to run around using “John Doe” as the pseudonym for a citizen seeking redress from government oppression and stupidity. In saner times, we’d be in the streets, now we just yawn. Grazing sheep indeed.

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