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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Federal Judge Rules National Security Letters With Gag Orders Are Unconstitutional

By Susan Duclos

Long story short on the background. 

The Government issues National Security Letters demanding information from companies, with those letters are a gag order on the company(s) in question preventing them from speaking about the NSL's or even mentioning to the public that they received one. The majority of those gag orders are indefinite, no time limit on how long the company or companies can be gagged.

From 2003 to 2011, there were over 200,00 NSL's issued by the Government and in 97 percent of the cases, gag orders accompanied them, according to U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, who just ruled that the gag orders are an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.

Via Wired:

Ultra-secret national security letters that come with a gag order on the recipient are an unconstitutional impingement on free speech, a federal judge in California ruled in a decision released Friday.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ordered the government to stop issuing so-called NSLs across the board, in a stunning defeat for the Obama administration’s surveillance practices. She also ordered the government to cease enforcing the gag provision in any other cases. However, she stayed her order for 90 days to give the government a chance to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

 The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) represented the unnamed telecommunications company and EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn, responds to this ruling.  "The First Amendment prevents the government from silencing people and stopping them from criticizing its use of executive surveillance power. The NSL statute has long been a concern of many Americans, and this small step should help restore balance between liberty and security."

The Obama administration is expected  to appeal this decision.

Ruling embedded below:

NSL Order uploaded by Susan Duclos