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ISP Owner Who Fought FBI Spying Freed From Gag Order

timothy posted about 4 years ago | from the free-to-move-about-the-prison dept.

Security 404

Tootech writes "So you wonder what happens when an ISP recieves a a so-called 'national security letter' from the FBI? Well, read this about an ISP owner's fight to not have to turn over everything and the sink to the FBI: 'The owner of an internet service provider who mounted a high-profile court challenge to a secret FBI records demand has finally been partially released from a 6-year-old gag order that forced him to keep his role in the case a secret from even his closest friends and family. He can now identify himself and discuss the case, although he still can't reveal what information the FBI sought. Nicholas Merrill, 37, was president of New York-based Calyx Internet Access when he received a so-called "national security letter" from the FBI in February 2004 demanding records of one of his customers and filed a lawsuit to challenge it.'"

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CmdrTaco sucks (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33230272)

CmdrTaco sucks dicks pretty good, but he has a tiny penis.

Troubling (5, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | about 4 years ago | (#33230292)

Despite the fact that the FBI later dropped its demand for the records, Merrill was prohibited from telling his fiancée, friends or family members that he had received the letter or that he was embroiled in a lawsuit challenging its legitimacy. He occasionally showed up for court hearings about the case, but sat silently in the audience with other court observers. In 2007, he was prevented from publicly accepting an award for his courage from the American Civil Liberties Union, because he was not allowed to identify himself as the plaintiff in the case.

So much for the first amendment. I'd have posted it all to slashdot, written letters to editors, harrassed my congresscritters, and gone to jail.

Free country, my ass. You no longer have freedom of speech.

Re:Troubling (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | about 4 years ago | (#33230310)

So much for the first amendment. I'd have posted it all to slashdot, written letters to editors, harrassed my congresscritters, and gone to jail.

Or you could be a little bit smarter about it and send it to a news outlet and/or wikileaks.....

Re:Troubling (2, Informative)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | about 4 years ago | (#33230420)

Which would have gotten you sent to jail? He basically said what you said, telling it on slashdot and writing letters to editors is kind of like sending it to a news outlet.

Wikileaks couldn't really have helped because as soon as they provide any information his anonymity is gone because the FBI will have known it was he who leaked the info.

Re:Troubling (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 4 years ago | (#33230444)

Wikileaks couldn't really have helped because as soon as they provide any information his anonymity is gone because the FBI will have known it was he who leaked the info.

No they wouldn't. They might suspect that but proving it in a Court of Law is an entirely different matter. It's a safe assumption that a fair number of people at the FBI would also have known about the NSL. Since you can't rule them out (it's hard to prove a negative after all) reasonable doubt would exist that the ISP owner leaked the documents.

Re:Troubling (5, Insightful)

schon (31600) | about 4 years ago | (#33230562)

They might suspect that but proving it in a Court of Law is an entirely different matter.

And as we all know, if it's impossible to prove in court, they won't ever arrest you and destroy your business.

Oh, [indybay.org] wait... [sjgames.com]

Re:Troubling (5, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33230910)

Read the article:

"In Merrill's case, although the letter's gag order "was totally clear that they were saying that I couldn't speak to a lawyer" about it, he immediately contacted his personal attorney, and together they went to the ACLU in New York, which agreed to represent him. "My gut feeling is I'm an American," Merrill said, in an interview with Threat Level on Tuesday. "I always have a right to an attorney. There's no such thing as you can't talk to your attorney."

This guy wasn't allowed to defend himself with a professional lawyer.
Clearly that is NULL according to both US and NY Constitutions.
And Supreme Court ruling (see the movie Gideon's Trumpet).

Re:Troubling (1)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | about 4 years ago | (#33230674)

otoh, wikileaks might actually publish it first. A conventional newspaper will propably just shop him, and give the letter back to the FBI.

Re:Troubling (1, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33230832)

>>>the FBI will have known it was he who leaked the info.

And people wonder why I fear Government more than GM, microsoft, RCA or other corporations. It should be obvious.

Re:Troubling (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 4 years ago | (#33231240)

Yes, we do. Because there is nothing inherent in a corporation that is different from a government, except there is a chance that the corporation has to operate under rules that are written and enforced by a government. However, without those rules, a corporation is nothing but a hegemony. If we're lucky, a meritocratic hegemony, but a hegemony nonetheless.

be smarter still-The Santa Cruz method (5, Interesting)

way2trivial (601132) | about 4 years ago | (#33230584)

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/03/10/LIBRARIES.TMP [sfgate.com]
"In Santa Cruz, where library officials are trying to stir up patrons about the Patriot Act, chief librarian Anne Turner has found a more subtle way to sidestep the gag order, if she ever faces one.

"At each board meeting I tell them we have not been served by any (search warrants)," she said. "In any months that I don't tell them that, they'll know."

Re:be smarter still-The Santa Cruz method (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 4 years ago | (#33231256)

It does say that friends and family started to get suspicious and asked him whether he was the "John Doe." He said he had to lie or refuse to answer the question. Given that the letter told him he couldn't even speak to an attorney, I suspect that if he were to say "Hypothetically, if I were the one served an NSL, I couldn't answer that question. Unrelated note, I'm going to walk away right now," the FBI wouldn't be above trying to throw him in jail. I'm guessing they -did- make attempts to throw him in jail for talking to an attorney and the ACLU.

Maybe that's why they settled for partially dropping the gag order rather than continuing and trying to get the whole NSL practice declared horribly unconstitutional. I suspect we'll never know.

Re:Troubling (1)

Pojut (1027544) | about 4 years ago | (#33230324)

Free country, my ass. You no longer have freedom of speech.

And yet, you have the freedom to say what I just quoted without being thrown in some secret prison.

Still, I know what you're getting at. I'll leave it with a Bill Hicks quote:

"Go back to bed, America! You are free to do what we tell you! You are free to do what we tell you!"

Re:Troubling (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about 4 years ago | (#33230412)

What good is it to be able to say "fuck the government" if you can't say "fuck these agents, from this branch of the government, for this specific action"?

Re:Troubling (1)

lymond01 (314120) | about 4 years ago | (#33231270)

No one's saying you can't stand up to the government rules. But you need to recall that they are, at the time, rules and by breaking them you will likely have the punishment for doing so applied to your bad self. That's when you are actually allowed to do the most good by having a public trial, getting the media involved, and changing the public's mind. It's a big risk to be arrested by the federal government and most people balk at the opportunity it could present.

Re:Troubling (4, Insightful)

mean pun (717227) | about 4 years ago | (#33231074)

And yet, you have the freedom to say what I just quoted without being thrown in some secret prison.

No police state is ever absolute. Even in the former DDR (in my limited knowledge the freakiest control freaks yet) you were able to get away with some things.

The fact remains that for six years someone was threatened with prison (secret or not) for simply telling someone that he'd been asked questions by the FBI. Surely that is cause for worry? It makes it far too easy to abuse the system, and the US three-letter agencies do not exactly have a spotless record with respect to abuse of the system.

Of course you also have to wonder how many similar cases there are that are still under a gag order, and whether there are even worse ones.

Re:Troubling (3, Insightful)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#33230332)

Freedom of speech has always taken a backseat to the notion of national security, even when it is a false notion. This isn't new, but the amount of security we are told we need seems to have increased dramatically.

"Liberty, Security, Empire: pick any two," we used to have liberty and security, now we have security and empire, but our empire sure doesn't seem to be doing anything for the average citizen.

Re:Troubling (5, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | about 4 years ago | (#33230432)

We don't have an "empire" and free speech has always been something that can be curtailed for an ongoing criminal investigation. National Security really doesn't have anything to do with it. When I was in the ISP business I learned that it's illegal in New York State to tell one of your customers that he's the subject of a electronic surveillance warrant. Are you going to claim that's an infringement on free speech?

This law isn't troubling because the ISP owner can't tell the public about the NSL. It's troubling because he can't even tell his own lawyer. If the law is found to be unconstitutional that will be the reason why.

Re:Troubling (0)

Hatta (162192) | about 4 years ago | (#33230580)

We don't have an "empire" and free speech has always been something that can be curtailed for an ongoing criminal investigation

I don't see an exception for criminal investigations in the First Amendment.

When I was in the ISP business I learned that it's illegal in New York State to tell one of your customers that he's the subject of a electronic surveillance warrant. Are you going to claim that's an infringement on free speech?

Yes.

Re:Troubling (2, Insightful)

Monchanger (637670) | about 4 years ago | (#33230688)

I don't see an exception for criminal investigations in the First Amendment.

That's because you don't understand the law. Read any court case about the limitation of freedom of speech and you'll see where that comes from.

Neither do you have unrestricted access to 'arms' as the NRA narrowly thinks the Second states.

Re:Troubling (1, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about 4 years ago | (#33230736)

The first amendment is pretty clear. Any ruling that contradicts the clear and obvious meaning of the first amendment is wrong.

Re:Troubling (3, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | about 4 years ago | (#33230770)

Yes.

That's absurd. Leftists are so fond of making the "fire in a crowded theater" analogy when it suits them (typically in conversations about infringements on the 2nd amendment) but now you claim the 1st amendment is absolute? It's not illegal to shout "fire!" -- it's illegal to do so in a manner that endangers public safety (see reckless endangerment laws). Likewise, it's not illegal to publish a letter that you received from law enforcement -- but it is illegal to interfere with an ongoing investigation (see obstruction of justice laws)

I really don't see the 1st amendment issue here. The NSL law is troubling for other reasons (prohibition on seeking legal advice) but not because you can't disclose the letter while the investigation is still ongoing.

Re:Troubling (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | about 4 years ago | (#33230852)

And the fact they don't even need a court order to issue one. And as with any power granted without oversite, it will be abused. Trust them to do their job, but don't trust them.

Re:Troubling (2, Insightful)

nj_peeps (1780942) | about 4 years ago | (#33230966)

I really don't see the 1st amendment issue here. The NSL law is troubling for other reasons (prohibition on seeking legal advice) but not because you can't disclose the letter while the investigation is still ongoing.

Last I checked you always have the right to an attorney (which he did contact) no matter what, but this is only part of the problem with NSL's. It's more the infringement of the 4th amendment that concerns me. This is just as bad as the warrantless wire tapping that was going on (and most likely still it). It's an abuse of power if you don't have one branch of government checking on the other. Now if the NSL came with a warrent, signed by a judge to obtain the information/items that where being asked for in the NSL (with just the NSL having the gag order to "protect the ongoing investigation") that would be IMHO would not be an abuse of power.

Re:Troubling (2, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | about 4 years ago | (#33231012)

Those obstruction of justice laws also violate the First Amendment. Any judge that rules otherwise is failing in their duty to uphold the Constitution.

The 2nd amendment also codifies an absolute, personal, right of Americans to own any arms (but not munitions).

Re:Troubling (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 4 years ago | (#33231290)

Those obstruction of justice laws also violate the First Amendment.

No, they really don't.

Re:Troubling (5, Informative)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#33230592)

Yes, we do have an Empire. We have colonies and military bases all over the world. We have intervened in dozens of country's internal politics. We have waged wars of aggression and toppled democratically elected leaders like Salvador Allende.

A good place to start is the wiki article on American Imperialism [wikipedia.org] , which is obviously horribly slanted if you think no such article should exist because no such thing exists, but you will find a lot of people all over the world strongly believe that not only does American imperialism exist, it has killed someone they know. Even if you don't think any such thing exists, it might be enlightening to you to research just what it is that all these people are calling 'American Imperialism."

Re:Troubling (-1, Offtopic)

Shakrai (717556) | about 4 years ago | (#33230650)

Put the bong down and step away slowly.

Re:Troubling (2, Informative)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#33230722)

Despite what you may have learned in junior high, "Put the bong down and step away slowly," is not a cogent counter argument.

Re:Troubling (-1, Troll)

Shakrai (717556) | about 4 years ago | (#33230814)

Neither is your rant that equates military bases there at the behest of the local government to empire. I'd ask you what our "colonies" are supposed to be but I doubt the answer would be worth my time.

Re:Troubling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33230884)

you don't seem to anything better to do

Re:Troubling (4, Informative)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#33230950)

The bases are not all there at the behest of current local governments, we have ongoing treaties dating back to WWII that they can not break without serious repercussions. As for colonies, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Marianna Islands, the US virgin Islands, American Samoa, are all official colonies, but I consider Iraq to be a colony, too, in that we have extracted billions of dollars in natural resources that remain unaccounted for.

Re:Troubling (-1, Troll)

Shakrai (717556) | about 4 years ago | (#33231134)

As for colonies, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Marianna Islands, the US virgin Islands, American Samoa, are all official colonies

You are an idiot. Every one of those places voluntarily agreed to maintain their current status at various times throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Puerto Rican statehood is supported by both major political parties but the people there don't want it. Nor do they want to terminate their Commonwealth status. They are exercising their Democratic right to determine their relationship with the United States. I'm sorry if you don't like the course that they decided to follow.

Re:Troubling (4, Insightful)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#33231202)

You are an idiot. Plenty of countries have 'voluntarily' accepted the yoke of empire, but that doesn't mean it's any less of an empire.

Re:Troubling (-1, Troll)

Shakrai (717556) | about 4 years ago | (#33231304)

Don't you have a hit to take hippie?

Re:Troubling (3, Informative)

thoromyr (673646) | about 4 years ago | (#33231122)

I know of at least one US military base that is officially there "at the behest of the local government". The local government has different ideas, depending on which official you ask.

The truthful answer is a bit more complicated, going along the lines of: they don't want us to have a military base in their country, but they *do* want something else and we used that as leverage to force the military base on them.

Saying that base is there "at the behest of the local government" is plain inaccurate. Saying that the local government permitted it under duress would be closer.

Re:Troubling (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33230780)

Good one! Can't understand why you got modded "offtopic".

Re:Troubling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33230836)

Put the bong down and step away slowly.

If you will not smoke the bong, you must bow down and worship Aqua Buddha! [aquabuddha.com]

Re:Troubling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33231306)

Hey Shakrai, how many times have you been modded down replying to spun's lefty socialist posts over the years? How come you get modded down and he gets modded up? Is he friends with Malda or something?

Re:Troubling (-1, Troll)

operagost (62405) | about 4 years ago | (#33230948)

Thanks for the rhetoric, Mr. Ayers. It's a shame you didn't set off more bombs in your heyday, eh? We could have had the socialist utopia you crave without having to assume this faux image of respectability.

Re:Troubling (5, Insightful)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#33231058)

Thanks for the rhetoric, Mr. Ayers. It's a shame you didn't set off more bombs in your heyday, eh? We could have had the socialist utopia you crave without having to assume this faux image of respectability.

I'm continually surprised by what passes for argumentation among conservatives. Petty snark, affronted whining, thoughtless jingoism, blatant fearmongering: it's no wonder that the majority of citizens find your positions puerile.

We're trying to have a grown up conversation here, if you can't act like a grown up and present your thoughts in a rational manner, you should go back and sit at the kid's table [digg.com] .

Re:Troubling (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33231280)

I'm continually surprised by what passes for argumentation among liberals. Petty snark, affronted whining, thoughtless jingoism, blatant fearmongering: it's no wonder that the majority of citizens find your positions puerile.

I'm continually surprised by what passes for argumentation among moderates. Petty snark, affronted whining, thoughtless jingoism, blatant fearmongering: it's no wonder that the majority of citizens find your positions puerile.

"Petty snark, affronted whining, thoughtless jingoism, blatant fearmongering" people can exist in any social group. Please indicate yours and I'm sure we'll find plenty of "leaders" of your political party of choice who exact these same qualities.

Of course, you might convince some people you're smart by using such big words, but your post is as bad the parents in scope of ignorance. Sadly, you probably didn't even notice the hypocrisy.

Re:Troubling (3, Insightful)

duppyconqueror (1161341) | about 4 years ago | (#33230974)

Let's not forget Mosaddegh [wikipedia.org] "Mohammad Mosaddegh...was the democratically elected[1][2][3][4] Prime Minister of Iran from 1951 to 1953 when he was overthrown in a coup d'état backed by the United States Central Intelligence Agency."

Re:Troubling (4, Insightful)

Monchanger (637670) | about 4 years ago | (#33231048)

American interference in other sovereignties is not equal to maintaining an empire over them. That's an exaggeration made by people who can't find a proper way to explain their grievances.

Nations have long sought to influence and interfere with their neighbors. Spying, inciting unrest, sabotage, assassination- none of these were invented by the USA.

Empires expand to tax and pillage. The US actually gives money to other nations to get them to do what we want. Maintaining military bases is objectionable, but still doesn't count, if for no other reason than different bases are maintained for different reasons requiring different definitions and arguments.

I'm as against American Exceptionalism as the next guy, but pulling the simplistic empire card as if we're equivalent to the British, the Ottomans and the Macedonians is intellectually dishonest.

Re:Troubling (1)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#33231150)

We give less per capita than any other first world nation, and only to countries where we have an economic interest. What did we do to protect East Timor from Suharto? You also forgot to mention the Empire we are most like: the Dutch Empire [wikipedia.org] . Empires are not the same as they used to be in any case, they are primarily economic rather than military. We still use the military to protect our economic interests, but we no longer need to occupy a country in order to exploit it. We just overthrow any elected head of state who won't play ball with our business interests.

Re:Troubling (1)

Monchanger (637670) | about 4 years ago | (#33231248)

What did we do to protect East Timor

East Timor? They're not worth anything to us. Why should we spend to get them to do anything? Did you bother to read what I wrote? I wasn't talking about being a moral non-empire.

. We still use the military to protect our economic interests, but we no longer need to occupy a country in order to exploit it. We just overthrow any elected head of state who won't play ball with our business interests.

We haven't done this to China yet to stop the huge trade deficit and fix our economy. Why not? Oh right- because we don't do that the way you suggest.

Re:Troubling (5, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | about 4 years ago | (#33230648)

free speech has always been something that can be curtailed for an ongoing criminal investigation.

Yes, but there was always judicial oversight -- if a law enforcement agency wanted your records, they had to go to a judge and have a warrant issued. These letters need no warrant, despite the fact that the Constitution says "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

TFA is, as I said, quite troubling. The fourth amendment has lost all meaning, as well as the first, which reads "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech".

When I was in the ISP business I learned that it's illegal in New York State to tell one of your customers that he's the subject of a electronic surveillance warrant. Are you going to claim that's an infringement on free speech?

No, because that looks like a judge has to issue a warrant. No judge's warrant is required for the FBI. From TFA:With an NSL, the FBI does not need to seek a court order to obtain such records, nor does it need to prove just cause. An FBI field agent simply needs to draft an NSL stating the information being sought is "relevant" to a national security investigation...

The gag orders raise the possibility for extensive abuse of NSLs, under the cover of secrecy. Indeed, in 2007, a Justice Department Inspector General audit found that the FBI, which issued almost 200,000 NSLs between 2003 and 2006, had abused its authority and misused NSLs.

Re:Troubling (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 4 years ago | (#33230920)

As I said, the law is troubling, just not from a 1st amendment perspective. I'm not defending the NSL law. I'm just pointing out the absurdity of claiming a 1st amendment issue exists because you can't reveal the fact that wiretap exists and/or documents were requested during an ongoing criminal investigation.

Yeah! National security! For our own protection! (4, Insightful)

Benfea (1365845) | about 4 years ago | (#33230684)

It's for our own protection, comrade! If you disagree with this, that means you're with the capitalists and against Mother Russia! We know how to deal with uppity citizens who refuse to cooperate with the KGB!

No offense, but our government has such a track record of claiming "national security" when it is anything but that I am inclined to not believe them when I hear those words. Half the time, it turns out to be our freedoms being curtailed for purely political reasons (either to cover someone's @ss or to harass an enemy). And you know what? Every totalitarian government uses that claim (or something similar) when they run roughshod over the rights of their constituents.

The Soviets were protecting their people from capitalist spies, capitalist saboteurs, and other unsavory "anti-revolutionary" types. The Nazis were protecting their people from Jews, gypsies, communists, homosexuals, union members, etc., etc. For our government, the boogeyman changes from time to time (drug dealers, terrorists, immigrants, etc.), but the purpose is the same. Your problem is that you've obviously fallen from the boogeyman scare tactics and failed to see it for what it is, and your reaction is exactly what those peddling fear could have hoped for.

Anyone who is trying to sell you something using fear is up to no good, or they would not have to resort to such tactics. We have a certain tradition in this country, and letting the government do whatever the hell they want as long as they use the magic words "national security" or "for your own protection" is not part of that tradition.

Re:Troubling (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33230724)

>>>We don't have an "empire"

We have an empire in the same sense that the British once had an empire. Sure Britain was democratic, but it still had an empire that reached around the world. So too does the US with bases straddling the globe.

Well... at least until we go bankrupt.

Re:Troubling (1)

Comrade Ogilvy (1719488) | about 4 years ago | (#33230734)

This law isn't troubling because the ISP owner can't tell the public about the NSL. It's troubling because he can't even tell his own lawyer. If the law is found to be unconstitutional that will be the reason why.

On the nose.

This NSL is so manifestly loathsome it would be so tempting to simply publish the letter. It puts a citizen in a position where he may be breaking the law no matter what, without the Constitutionally protected advice of an attorney.

What happens if the FBI were to demand from you actions for which you could be civilly or even criminally libel? Would "just following orders" in defiance of your own common sense be a defense you want to rely on?

Re:Troubling (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | about 4 years ago | (#33231036)

Yes, the NSL law is loathsome. I've never disputed that. I even responded to mcgrew earlier and suggested that I might be inclined to leak the letter to Wikileaks if I received one.

All I'm saying is that there isn't a 1st amendment issue when you prohibit a service provider from telling their customer that he's under surveillance. Interfering with an ongoing criminal investigation is obstruction of justice. That's been illegal since the Common Law (i.e: it predates the United States of America) and has never been ruled to be unconstitutional.

There is a 5th amendment issue here when the service provider is denied the right to confer with his attorney. There is a 4th amendment issue here when the subject of the NSL is denied his right to have a warrant issued before having his communications intercepted. I'm just not seeing a 1st amendment issue though.

Re:Troubling (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33230806)

>>>When I was in the ISP business I learned that it's illegal in New York State to tell one of your customers that he's the subject of a electronic surveillance warrant.

That law is null and void according to the Higher Law of the NY Constitution: "Every citizen may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right; and no law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press."

Re:Troubling (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 4 years ago | (#33230436)

"Liberty, Security, Empire: pick any two,"

If only we could have two! All we've got is the empire.

Re: Troubling (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 4 years ago | (#33230620)

now we have security and empire, but our empire sure doesn't seem to be doing anything for the average citizen.

Did empires ever?

Re: Troubling (3, Insightful)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#33230766)

now we have security and empire, but our empire sure doesn't seem to be doing anything for the average citizen.

Did empires ever?

Oddly enough, they have not. You'd think the average citizen would have learned that by now, but having a winning empire is a bit like having a winning sports team: even if you're a big fat loser who never played any sport, you can take pride in the fact that someone you identify with is kicking the ass of someone you've decided not to like.

Re: Troubling (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33230880)

the roman empire netted common soldiers a nice plot of land in Gaul, the poor in Rome cheap Egyptian wheat, and the empire as a whole several hundred miles of buffer between itself and possible invaders

Re: Troubling (2, Funny)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#33231170)

the roman empire netted common soldiers a nice plot of land in Gaul, the poor in Rome cheap Egyptian wheat, and the empire as a whole several hundred miles of buffer between itself and possible invaders

Okay, but aside from the Gaulish land, the cheap wheat and the defensible borders, what has the Empire ever done for us?

Re:Troubling (1)

Intron (870560) | about 4 years ago | (#33230728)

Freedom of speech has always taken a backseat to the notion of national security, even when it is a false notion. This isn't new, but the amount of security we are told we need seems to have increased dramatically.

"Liberty, Security, Empire: pick any two," we used to have liberty and security, now we have security and empire, but our empire sure doesn't seem to be doing anything for the average citizen.

In what sense have NSLs and the Patriot Act increased security? If I were a terrorist I would get a job with the government, since I can get any information I need and not have to worry about any oversight.The fed is up to 2.15 M employees, you think they are all thoroughly screened? If we were really concerned with security, we would be making the government more open.

Re:Troubling (1)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#33230866)

Freedom of speech has always taken a backseat to the notion of national security, even when it is a false notion. This isn't new, but the amount of security we are told we need seems to have increased dramatically.

"Liberty, Security, Empire: pick any two," we used to have liberty and security, now we have security and empire, but our empire sure doesn't seem to be doing anything for the average citizen.

In what sense have NSLs and the Patriot Act increased security?

In what sense did I say they did increase security?

Re:Troubling (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 4 years ago | (#33230758)

Freedom of speech has always taken a backseat to the notion of national security, even when it is a false notion. This isn't new, but the amount of security we are told we need seems to have increased dramatically.

It was getting better until recently... the history of the limitation of free speech in the US has showed, over two centuries, a gradual trend of easing of restrictions during times of conflict/war.

This trend is in danger of changing, with inroads against it made under GWB and not being reversed as yet under BHO.

Geoffrey Stone's Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from The Sedition Act of 1798 to The War on Terrorism [amazon.com] is a very approachable and enlightening read on the topic.

Re:Troubling (1)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#33230854)

It's amusing to watch liberals fall all over themselves justifying the fact that BHO has not reversed Bush's policies on this issue. Well, not so much amusing as terribly, terribly depressing.

Re:Troubling (1)

scot4875 (542869) | about 4 years ago | (#33231038)

Those people are just the liberal counterpart to the conservatives who still think that GWB was the best president ever.

There are idiots who root for the home team on both sides.

--Jeremy

The Empire gives us subsidized oil prices (1)

lotzmana (775963) | about 4 years ago | (#33231180)

... we used to have liberty and security, now we have security and empire, but our empire sure doesn't seem to be doing anything for the average citizen.

The Empire gives the ordinary citizen subsidized oil prices. The funding of the army is not explicitly reflected in the gasoline prices. The result is a happy motoring nation. Every ordinary citizen benefits from it.

Power (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33230402)

I agree 100%, but what this really is is yet another reminder that political power cannot be fought. Political power is the special right to employ physical force as a means to an end. Nobody holds that special right except for government. That one special right is, in fact, what defines government and seperates government from everybody else.

Why am I going on about this? Because that one special right is the most dangerous thing in the world, and for this reason it MUST be strictly limited. Think twice about cheering for more and more government along with the masses. Remember that we are already living under the most expensive, most powerful government this world has ever seen. If you advocate more government on certain matters, AT LEAST consider that the power you advocate should be re-allocated from other parts of government which are over-powered (and there are many), rather than created out of thin air. All too often I see people on slashdot cheering for yet even more government, without even giving consideration to the fact that they are already subject (if they live in the US) to the most powerful empire in history, with military bases in over 150 countries around the world.

They already have enough power. They already have enough revenue. In fact, they have way too much of both, and that is why the level of injustice is increasing, not decreasing, over time.

Re:Troubling (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about 4 years ago | (#33230468)

Free country, my ass. You no longer have freedom of speech.

You're about 212 years behind the times [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Troubling (3, Informative)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about 4 years ago | (#33230488)

And yes, those acts were repealed, but it just goes to show that the 1st Amendment has taken a backseat to government interest since pretty much the beginning.

Re:Troubling (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33230556)

Forget "compliance". If you can't tell anybody, parse that as everybody, including them. They ask about it, then you just claim ignorance in compliance with the order.

Re:Troubling (0)

BStroms (1875462) | about 4 years ago | (#33230680)

So much for the first amendment. I'd have posted it all to slashdot, written letters to editors, harrassed my congresscritters, and gone to jail.

Free country, my ass. You no longer have freedom of speech.

I could be wrong, but somehow I suspect you wouldn't be as supportive of unlimited freedom of speech if the story were about an IRS agent claiming it as he made public all the personal information he had on everyone he'd audited. Freedom of speech should allow you to express whatever opinions you want. It should not give you a right to reveal information that can do real material damage to others without facing punishment.

Re:Troubling (3, Interesting)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | about 4 years ago | (#33230690)

Personally, I haven't really believed there is freedom of speech in the United States ever since I heard about free speech zones [wikipedia.org] .

I first heard about free speech zones in an article about how protesters against G.W. Bush were directed to free speech zones that were far enough away from where Bush would be passing that he, his supporters, and other onlookers would not be able to hear them. Apparently, free speech zones predate G.W. Bush's government, though.

I'm not sure how useful free speech is if you can only exercise it where nobody who doesn't already agree with you will hear it.

Re:Troubling (3, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | about 4 years ago | (#33230812)

Forgot to add:

On the other hand, I am pleasantly surprised about how much vocal criticism there is in the USA. Living in the Netherlands, I hear and see more criticism and discussion of American policy than of Dutch policy. You're doing something right over there that we're doing wrong over here. Criticism and discussion are good, because only through them can you arrive at better decisions.

Re:Troubling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33231178)

In America we are nothing if not 300 million strong, highly critical, aggressive pricks who think we know better. Sometimes, but not always, we're right.

Re:Troubling (1)

Americano (920576) | about 4 years ago | (#33231272)

The reason for this is that your freedom of speech is not unlimited, and does not necessarily include with it the right to interfere with others' rights - their freedom of speech, and freedom to assemble are just as valuable under the law as your freedom to protest and speak your mind.

While I'd agree that the implementation of "free speech zones" can be a bit ridiculous, and probably not always compliant with the notion of "free speech,", it is important to recognize that "freedom of speech" does not give you unlimited rights to say whatever you want, wherever you want, in whatever manner you want, whenever you want. In the interests of public safety, and in the interests of preserving the rights of people to peaceably assemble (another right guaranteed by the First Amendment), these tradeoffs sometimes have to be made.

I think part of the issue with FSZ's has to do with the generally ineffective tone of modern protests. For instance, From the G20 convention in Toronto this past June:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fhGneV6rQg [youtube.com]

This "protest" appears mostly to have devolved into a few college students chanting nonsensical but "funny" slogans at the police. Did they have a point? Who knows. Why are they there? Who knows. The kid practically giving a lap-dance to the officer no doubt is a facebook hero, but what the fuck is the point of this protest? I see no signs... I hear no discussion or criticism of G20 policies... I see a few kids making buffoons of themselves because "THE MAN" is out on the street to control a protest.

I've seen this sort of tone in other "protests," as well. People show up to "show their support" for something, and it devolves into a street carnival. I'm all for making a statement publicly against policies you feel are wrong-headed... but I don't think that the event organizers should be forced to deal with this sort of sophomoric nonsense either.

Re:Troubling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33230800)

Sure you would have. *rolls eyes*

Yeah. (5, Informative)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | about 4 years ago | (#33230316)

An old buddy of mine works at the FBI. He says that these demanding letters come in all shapes and forms, are frequently quite illegitimate, and are becoming more and more widely spread.

Basically, the FBI is doing what the MAFIAA do--they know that they're the big boys with power and money and will go against you whether you're right or wrong because nearly no one will fight.

Re:Yeah. (2)

mcgrew (92797) | about 4 years ago | (#33230372)

An old buddy of mine works at the FBI. He says that these demanding letters come in all shapes and forms, are frequently quite illegitimate, and are becoming more and more widely spread.

TFA says the same thing, so your post serves to back up what TFA said.

Re:Yeah. (4, Interesting)

Ironhandx (1762146) | about 4 years ago | (#33230458)

Ah, I wish I still had mod points.

It reminds me of a story about a Canadian who refused to cooperate with the FBI and had the FBI officer argue with him until he was blue in the face that the man had to cooperate with them and it was illegal to do otherwise.

To be fair though the FBI can just put a request through proper channels and the RCMP can go get whatever they needed. It is illegal to be uncooperative with the RCMP in Canada. Its funny how often the FBI thinks they can just do whatever they want and bypass all of the regs though.

Re:Yeah. (1)

epiphani (254981) | about 4 years ago | (#33230486)

they know that they're the big boys with power and money and will go against you whether you're right or wrong because nearly no one will fight.

Bolded the important part. This is one guy with a small ISP. Every other business, ISP, content provider, etc, bends over immediately. There is no more expectation of privacy, and the forth amendment is long dead.

Re:Yeah. (1, Insightful)

cdrudge (68377) | about 4 years ago | (#33230498)

So your buddy is allowed to talk about them with people outside of the bureau (presuming you don't work for them too), but those that receive them aren't?

Re:Yeah. (5, Interesting)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | about 4 years ago | (#33230596)

So your buddy is allowed to talk about them with people outside of the bureau (presuming you don't work for them too), but those that receive them aren't?

Yes, we were discussing policy. He can talk about policy all day long but by no means is he allowed to talk to me about specific cases.

FBI Liars (2, Funny)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | about 4 years ago | (#33230506)

Ah, so the FBI are liars.

I wonder why I root for Al Capone in all those gangster movies.....

Re:FBI Liars (1)

operagost (62405) | about 4 years ago | (#33231002)

Because he didn't pay taxes?

Re:FBI Liars (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 4 years ago | (#33231310)

Ah, so the FBI are liars.

I've always said it should be the Federal Investigations Bureau

Re:Yeah. (1)

swb (14022) | about 4 years ago | (#33230552)

(1) Size up opponent in terms of political clout, potential exposure and wealth.
(2) Weakness on any front? Issue National Security Letter
(3) Profit!!!

Re:Yeah. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33230600)

they know that they're the big boys with power and money and will go against you whether you're right or wrong because nearly no one will fight
 
To what ends? Why would they have their own agenda?

Re:Yeah. (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | about 4 years ago | (#33230732)

Unregulated power *always* invites abuse. If an FBI agent knows he can just use one of these letters without needing to prove anything to court and that he will never have to answer for it, why *wouldn't* he use it for everything? I would be surprised if they even bothered with warrants at all anymore (except in high-profile cases that might invite media scrutiny).

Re:Yeah. (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 4 years ago | (#33231234)

no accountability for the FBI, it seems?

ie, if you or I do something wrong and cause harm, we are accountable.

but if the FBI ruins a life or causes harm (in secret, no less!) there is no down side to them.

therefore, until this changes, don't expect fairness or justice. american stasi, effectively. yes, I fully do mean 'secret police'; if they are allowed to do pretty much anything, unchecked, how is this NOT a secret police?

the very notion of a gag order is against all that I understood the US to stand for. total abuse of power, nothing else.

I can tell you. (2, Informative)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | about 4 years ago | (#33230348)

The FBI wanted the entire customer list and all of their assigned IP address for as long as they were with the ISP.

IOW, they wanted everything.

Re:I can tell you. (1)

elrous0 (869638) | about 4 years ago | (#33230426)

Don't worry, I'm sure they would never abuse the masses of information obtained on completely innocent customers not involved at all in this investigation. After all, they're the FBI. You can trust them. J. Edgar Hoover said so.

Re:I can tell you. (2, Insightful)

Ironhandx (1762146) | about 4 years ago | (#33230520)

I just wish this guy had another ISP opened. I would like to get my Internet connection from him, AKA someone with scruples.

Bet this guy was VERY exceptional (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | about 4 years ago | (#33230366)

For every ISP like this who stood up to the feds, I wonder how many just caved and put their own business interests ahead of the civil rights of their clients?

Re:Bet this guy was VERY exceptional (4, Interesting)

ink (4325) | about 4 years ago | (#33230482)

Unfortunately, there's no way to know with these "gag orders" in place. Even if some piece of information is needed for national security reasons, it should be subject to speedy judicial review after the fact -- otherwise, there is no mechanism to identify abuse.

Re:Bet this guy was VERY exceptional (4, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33230876)

>>>it should be subject to speedy judicial review after the fact -

BEFORE the fact. Warrants are supposed to be issued by judges, not police, and while under oath. These warrants the police are issuing without involving the courts are unconstitutional.

Re:Bet this guy was VERY exceptional (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | about 4 years ago | (#33231204)

All the rest of them.

Prez! (5, Interesting)

natehoy (1608657) | about 4 years ago | (#33230414)

Nicholas Merrill for President... of Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, etc!!!!

Who's with me?

Wikileaks Vets All Of My Mail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33230928)

Anything that looks even the slightest bit official goes straight to wikileaks before I read it. Note to my goverment: Anything sent to me that is secret is seen by wikileaks first. Sorry, that's just the way it is. And also, my profuse apologies to wikileaks for all those license renewal notices and utility bills and escrow analysis statements that I keep sending. Just ignore them.

A Solution? (5, Interesting)

karcirate (1685354) | about 4 years ago | (#33231030)

Here's what you do when you get one of these letters:

1) Deny that you have any of the records they are looking for.
2) Make sure that data (which you do have) is seriously protected.
3) They have no way to get the data from you now without either:
a. arresting you for not complying - in which case their secrecy is blown, so they won't do that
b. getting a court ordered warrant - in which case their secrecy is blown, so they won't do that
c. Getting all sneaky and stealing the data - see #2
d. Totally screwing you over and destroying your life - in which case their secrecy is blown because once your life is destroyed, you have nothing to lose by revealing the letter, so they won't do that
4) Dance

Re:A Solution? (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 4 years ago | (#33231216)

That would work, except that by the time you receive the letter, the FBI has already implemented 3.c and obtained the information they are seeking. They just need a paper trail to show that the information was obtained legally (even though NSLs violate the constitution in a number of ways).

Denying you have information the FBI has already obtained from you is a sure way to get yourself into some hot water.

Is there any way I can subscribe? (1)

MasterOfMagic (151058) | about 4 years ago | (#33231226)

Is there any way that I can subscribe to his ISP, even if I'm not in the area? Someone like this should be rewarded for standing up for their principles.

Does he still run an ISP or did it go under? (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | about 4 years ago | (#33231254)

if this guy is still running a company that provides anything I use then I'd like to vote with my wallet and go with someone who gives a shit about his customers.

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