Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

IT and A National Security Letter Gag Order

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the land-that-i-love dept.

Censorship 468

fstyke writes "An article in the Washington Post (anonymous for obvious reasons) describes the trauma the president of a small US IT company faces after receiving a National Security Letter. This is sent by the FBI demanding information (140000+ have been sent between 2003/2005 according to the article). Makes for an interesting read of the side effects of receiving such a letter and its requirements for the recipient to remain silent about even the fact he/she has received it.'The letter ordered me to provide sensitive information about one of my clients. There was no indication that a judge had reviewed or approved the letter, and it turned out that none had. The letter came with a gag provision that prohibited me from telling anyone, including my client, that the FBI was seeking this information. Based on the context of the demand -- a context that the FBI still won't let me discuss publicly -- I suspected that the FBI was abusing its power and that the letter sought information to which the FBI was not entitled.'"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

This must change (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457539)

Having secret police and no accountability goes against the very grain of what the United States stands for, and what the Constitution says. Our forefathers explicitly ensured that we would have the rights necessary to overthrow our government if things got out of hand. The government exists to serve the people, not the other way around.

If you haven't done so already, I highly recommend contacting your representatives [house.gov] , writing to your local newspaper, and otherwise telling anyone who will hear that this is unacceptable. We cannot have the government secretly snooping around in our private information and lives. Let's kick up a stormcloud and make sure this gets changed!

Re:This must change (5, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457635)

Having secret police and no accountability goes against the very grain of what the United States stands for, and what the Constitution says.

Absolutely. Also remember that in our system the only way to challenge a law as unconstitutional is to break it. Anyone who gets one of these letters has a moral responsibility to disobey it. The government issued over 140,000 of these letters with gag orders. We should have 140,000 people in jail right now for talking about them, nothing else could demonstrate how abusive these letters are.

Re:This must change (5, Insightful)

OddThinking (1078509) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457749)

Anyone who gets one of these letters has a moral responsibility to disobey it.

The problem is many of those 140,000 also have other moral responsibilities, such as providing for their children. I think a good 10,000 would do the trick.

Re:This must change (4, Insightful)

eck011219 (851729) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457997)

Indeed. There may be a moral responsibility to disobey the unconstitutional law, but there is at least technically a legal responsibility to obey it. While I applaud what this guy did (and it sounds like he's relatively unencumbered by family responsibilities, though you can't really know that from the article), I think about dragging my wife and daughter through this kind of thing and my skin crawls. And really, they are bigger than me -- could be that I'd fight the good fight, whittle away my and my family members' lives and resources, and then end up in jail anyway.

I'm not saying I wouldn't do it or that the guy was wrong to do it -- I think he's spot on in his reasoning and approach. But this administration and its worker bees throughout the rest of the federal government have shown an uncanny ability to destroy people -- a very scary thought. At least we have Congress starting to fight them now.

Re:This must change (4, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458067)

Exactly zero of those 140,000 have violated one of those administrative gag orders, here in the land of the free and the home of brave. Either the government has already gotten so terrible that to defy it is mere foolishness, or the people have gotten the government we deserve.

Re:This must change (2, Insightful)

nahdude812 (88157) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457775)

I understand your point and agree with its core meaning.

I'd like to point out though that most likely the vast majority of these letters were served to corporations, and probably 90% of them hit the same dozen or so corporations (big ones specializing in communications like Verizon & AT&T). You don't get to be a big corporation like these by standing on principle.

It's a Fear (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457777)

Also remember that in our system the only way to challenge a law as unconstitutional is to break it.
And I'm certain that the people who you're asking to break these laws are afraid that they'll be the only one and end up in jail or worse.

We should have 140,000 people in jail right now for talking about them...
I would wager that the FBI sent out initial "test letters" about clients to companies that--if necessary--they knew they could get a court order to acquire anyways. Once the company complied, the FBI probably evaluated the resistance said company gave. A low resistance would indicate that at anytime, the FBI could keep playing the same card (probably on the same individual) and continually receive information whether a court order would back them up in the end or not. I'm guessing the number of letters does not reflect the number of individuals who partook in the release of information.

As perverse as it may sound, I would also wager that there are individuals out there who would reply to these letters instantly and with a sense of pride for serving their country. I am very interested if the letters convey this attitude about this request for information. If they do, in fact, inform the individual that this is a matter of national security & that they will be bringing justice to the enemies of the United States, then I hope they are eventually published so we can all have a good laugh and that they might serve as a reminder for victims of future schemes.

Re:It's a Fear (2, Insightful)

terraformer (617565) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458317)

I would wager that the FBI sent out initial "test letters" about clients to companies that--if necessary--they knew they could get a court order to acquire anyways. Once the company complied, the FBI probably evaluated the resistance said company gave. A low resistance would indicate that at anytime, the FBI could keep playing the same card (probably on the same individual) and continually receive information whether a court order would back them up in the end or not.

Dude, you are giving them way too much credit....

Re:It's a Fear (4, Interesting)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458351)

Ephasis mine:

If they do, in fact, inform the individual that this is a matter of national security & that they will be bringing justice to the enemies of the United States, then I hope they are eventually published so we can all have a good laugh

I think you misspelled "cry".

But seriously,

and that they might serve as a reminder for victims of future schemes.

Serve as a reminder? I don't think this is a minor problem, this is a strong signal of the US's descent into a fascist state. Leaning on patriotism and fear of reprisal to get people to report on their neighbors (we're all neighbors in the digital era)? Sounds familiar.

I really don't want to Godwin the thread, but in this case there is a parallel that is best not ignored.

Re:This must change (4, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457811)

Also remember that in our system the only way to challenge a law as unconstitutional is to break it.

"Four boxes to be used in defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury, ammo - use in that order." --Ed Howdershelt

This fellow did the right thing. He challenged it in court first. And he did get somewhere, but he's still under a gag order that he has not been able to change. Only then did he resort to breaking the law in order to challenge it.

Breaking the law comes with a lot of consequences, so choose your battles carefully. Only do it when you are sure you're getting the best bang for your buck. Otherwise you'll just waste away your ability to fight.

Re:This must change (1)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457925)

We should have 140,000 people in jail right now for talking about them, nothing else could demonstrate how abusive these letters are.

Given how the US has the largest prison population per capita on the face of the earth, going to jail in protest of these letters is about as effective as taking sand to the beach. Even then, those who defy the orders will be painted as terrorist lovers who stand in way of the GWOT, rather than true patriots taking a stand against a government abuse.

You can't win if you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Re:This must change (3, Informative)

dougmc (70836) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458153)

Given how the US has the largest prison population per capita on the face of the earth,
Actually, the US is #2 -- Rwanda is #1 [mapinc.org] .

Re:This must change (5, Insightful)

polar red (215081) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458011)

We should have 140,000 people in jail right now for talking about them,
Provided They don't end up as enemy combatants. Oh you say they aren't enemy combatants ? How are you going to prove that ? You're not allowed a trial ! Yeah, vote republican !

Re:This must change (3, Insightful)

OddThinking (1078509) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457655)

Don't get me wrong: I agree, we should contact our representatives and make some noise. But...

To be honest, must people are not going to care until it happens to them. My parents (and I think most people) may not agree with it, but rather than disagree with it, they would rather just avoid thinking about it.

Unless we get some honest politicians (I love throwing oxymorons into my posts), the situation is probably going to take a long time to correct. But, if no one does anything, it will never be corrected.

Re:This must change (2, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458007)

Unless we get some honest politicians (I love throwing oxymorons into my posts), the situation is probably going to take a long time to correct.

I think you overestimate the corruption of the political system. Politicians may often be underhanded, sneaky, and less than honorable (despite the title bestowed on them), but that doesn't mean that they're all of one mind on issues. For right now they are still duly elected and answerable to the public. If you draw their attention to important matters like this, most of them will take action.

If we fail to take action on this issue, then I guarantee that the Congress we have today, with all its faults, will be replaced with a perfect congress. Perfect, as in they will be elected and responsible to no one but their secret masters: "Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer" -Adolf Hitler

* Translation: One World, One State, One Leader

Re:This must change (1, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458037)

"Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer" -Adolf Hitler * Translation: One World, One State, One Leader

Since when does 'Volk' mean 'World'?

Re:This must change (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458113)

You are correct. "One people" is the correct translation, though the meaning is effectively the same. Sorry 'bout that.

Re:This must change (3, Interesting)

nutrock69 (446385) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458291)

For right now they are still duly elected and answerable to the public.
When was the last time a politician of the USA asked the public what it wanted? I don't remember hearing of any time during this century...

Politicians used to poll their constituents on a regular basis to find out what we want our government to do. Now they sit back and wait for the lobbyists (legal bribers) to come tell them what the rich corporations want them to do - often against the wishes of their constituents. Their political party comes to them telling them how the "Party Line" will be voting in today's session and informing them of the consequences if they violate solidarity. And since 2000 the political back-biting from above paints them as heretics/terrorists for not supporting our new Führer.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - When we give up our freedoms to fight for them, we've already lost.

Re:This must change (1)

AlphaLop (930759) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458045)

You know, I am noticing this with a lot of the people I know that are in their late 40's or older.... What happened to these children of "The greatest generation"? Their parents fought WWII to preserve freedom and liberty and yet their children seem perfectly happy to sit back and let those same freedoms that their parents fought and died for be taken away from them piecemeal as long as American Idol and all the other reality T.V. shows and what passes for "The News" is still on.

I'm not saying that my generation is doing much better, but I am only in my early 30's, so most of my generation is not in positions of power..... yet...

But then again, I have become such a pessimist that I don't really have much hope for the USA anymore.

Re:This must change (2)

Xiph (723935) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457747)

The catch is, he's not allowed to do this.

That's a very real problem.
If his case fails, it's a good question if raising the case itself constitutes a breach.
I highly recommend reading the above post, and doing as it says, even if you haven't had this problem, because once you get it, you might not be able to.

I have to compare this to the secret police of Eastern Germany during the cold war, even though it seems far fetched, and i certainly don't hope the FBI act like this, they do have the power to outdo it.

Re:This must change (1)

lambini (1061090) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457963)

It is more a question of, who is actually snooping. The government will avoid snooping themselves, but they can give certain orders that requires police/secret service, to investigate everybody with a certain boundery. Nothing much you can do about. Positive would be that for information that needs to come from people that garantee the privacy of your personal information, the order should come from a judge together with a strong wording of what is expected of this investigation and what the anticipated result should be.

Re:This must change (1)

BESTouff (531293) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458157)

Having secret police and no accountability goes against the very grain of what the United States stands for, and what the Constitution says. Our forefathers explicitly ensured that we would have the rights necessary to overthrow our government if things got out of hand. The government exists to serve the people, not the other way around.

Maybe (just maybe) your secret polices (FBI & CIA) have just grown out of control and the government has no real responsibilities nor control in what they do. Ok, seeing how G.W.Bush speaks and acts, I seriously doubt he has no part in it, but you should ask yourself if your "police" isn't too independent.

Used to be a free country... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18457547)

before the Patriot Act!

posted anonymously for obvious reasons!

Re:Used to be a free country... (5, Informative)

slughead (592713) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458163)

Used to be a free country... before the Patriot Act!

That's the thing: No, we didn't.

The government has been encroaching on our personal liberties one piece at a time for a century.

You may want to blame the government of the past 30 years, but here's a quote from former attorney general and later Supreme Court justice, Robert H Jackson in 1940--61 years before USA PATRIOT Act.:

With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone. In such a case, it is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him.

-Robert H. Jackson [roberthjackson.org]

Realize this was back in 1940, when the federal body of law was half what it is today.

I would argue that focusing on the last few decades of law is the exact reason why we can't get serious reform. Once the American people wrap their heads around how much and how long they've been screwed over the years, it'll really put the problem into the correct context.

Both parties have given incredible powers to the government over the years, and "the lesser of two evils" mentality is to blame. Once you realize how terribly they both have systematically and deviously plotted and executed their plans to control you, you'll realize that neither of the two can be trusted.

Of course, this all sounds like alarmist melodramatic BS... until you see this [cato.org] .

We were robbed because we were afraid of what our fellow citizens were doing. By bowing to the the pressures of the 'crisis of the day,' we allowed the government to seize control. The alien and sedition acts made it a crime to criticize the federalist government. The FBI was doing (illegal) drive-by shootings on the homes of suspected KKK members. Alleged Communists were "convicted" without proper trial by the hundreds (sometimes 50 at a time). Alleged child molesters have been tracked down and their property searched and seized without proper warrants. Now, with the advent of the terrorist into our country, the executive branch doesn't even need to explain itself when it knocks down your door.

Hopeful thinking.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18457567)

...1/20/2009 - That's all I have to say.

Re:Hopeful thinking.... (1)

mulvane (692631) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457645)

Your assuming that the election is not proved to have been rigged by an outside party and as the only real solution left after that would be leaving in the current president until a full and "timely" investigation could be accomplished. Sounds far fetched to you?

Re:Hopeful thinking.... (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457709)

That's a good last stand. I'm wondering why we haven't seen signs sooner that "changing horses midstream" would be a bad idea and the administration testing the waters of forgoing the next election. I would think that would be the dealbreaker for America.

Re:Hopeful thinking.... (5, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458099)

...1/20/2009 - That's all I have to say.

Why is that all you have to say? You're hoping that the executive branch is then run by the opposing party? But, the opposing party's majority supported the PATRIOT act, and supported renewing it because they saw the need to do so. Have you heard a single person (a plausibly electable C-in-C) that has actually said that despite the fact that congress voted on and passed (more than once) the legal framework for a change in how counter-terrorism intel is gathered/processed/shared that they would ignore that legislation? They (your presumptive opposing-party-president-elect) doesn't have any power or authority to change the legislation. That's for your congress to do. And the opposing party is already in control of congress. And guess what: all they can do is talk about non-binding resolutions that stamp their feet in disapproval over the conduct of the conflict in Iraq, and get in a lather over how a handful of US attorneys (ALL of whom work entirely at the whim of every president and are political appointees, and ALL of whom the previous administration fired without so much as a minor hissy fit out of congress) were dismissed.

If you don't like the PATRIOT act, talk to you congress creatures. They're the ones that passed it, they're the ones that renewed it, and they're the ones that could kill it off any time they want. So: specifically ask John Edwards, or Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama if they would ask congress to kill it off (since that's all they can do), and see what they say. Your date in 2009 won't change the fact that important changes the PATRIOT act brought forth are still going to be necessary. People can't bitch about the poor intelligence sharing/processing lapses leading up to 9/11, and also bitch about the piece of legislation that fixes the problem. I think there are some aspects of the act that should be changed - but only if another provision is put in place: we need a LOT more judges. Ones with the security clearances and training required to be a part of real-time counter-terrorism investigations/activities. These problems are not like normal criminal investigations, to say the least. If we all want judges to weigh in on when an IT shop should be, in the middle of security issue, asked to cough up some sort of information - well, we need a hell of a lot more judges who are able to constructively weigh in on that issue on a moment's notice, and with the IT-savvy skills to grasp the issues at stake. And those judges will all need infrastructure, staff, communications and all of the other high costs that go with making them available to the intel people that are trying to get the actual work done. There's a little more to it than Teh Evil Bush Wants To Document My Pr0n Habits So I'll Go To Gitmo.

Just throw it away (5, Insightful)

oglueck (235089) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457571)

If the FBI denies its existance and you are not to speak about it, you can just silently throw it in the bin and forget about it, right? I mean they can't possibly sue you over something that doesn't even legally exist. Okay, maybe in a country like your they can.

Re:Just throw it away (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18457619)

Good luck. Since the issue concerns national security, you will get detained as an enemy combatant, and thrown into jail with no access to a lawyer, let alone a judge.

Re:Just throw it away (2, Insightful)

aicrules (819392) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458021)

Yeah...parent is NOT informative. Parent is disinformative. The enemy combatant classification (nor the non-enemy combatant which I think you probably meant) cannot be applied in this way. It's posts like these that make the "by line" so accurate.

Re:Just throw it away (5, Insightful)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458129)

The enemy combatant classification (nor the non-enemy combatant which I think you probably meant) cannot be applied in this way.

And if it were to be, what are your options, noble grasshopper?

Re:Just throw it away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18458299)


The enemy combatant classification (nor the non-enemy combatant which I think you probably meant) cannot be applied in this way.


And if it were applied in this way with a blanket gag order to keep anyone from discussing that it happened in this way (for national security reasons of course) ...

How would we tell the difference between such a country and the one we live in?

Re:Just throw it away (4, Informative)

Jtheletter (686279) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458303)

The President can declare anyone an enemy combatant under the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Contrary to what some believe, this is NOT limited to non-citizens. Given how little judicial or other oversight or scrutiny that is able to be placed on the Presidents actions, even if the power were abused by declaring a civilly disobedient citizen an enemy combatant, how many years would they waste away in a secret prison before anyone was even able to find out what exactly happened to them or why?

Re:Just throw it away (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458307)

It's unaccountable.. unless you're privy to information the rest of us are not, his claims are just as true as yours. And, historically, claims of greater abuse of unaccountable powers is more likely than claims of lesser abuse.

Re:Just throw it away (1)

dafz1 (604262) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457741)

It probably could be considered obstruction if you just threw it away. However, intentionally not releasing the information, like the author did, is definitely obstruction.

The FBI weren't too concerned about someone who said no to them, so why would they be concerned about someone who just ignored them? It probably depends on how big of fish they're trying to fry.

Re:Just throw it away (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457917)

Oh, give me a break. If you recieved something classified, and the very existance of the information is classified, e.g. wiretaps that "don't exist" does that mean it doesn't legally exist? Of course it does, and they'll happily sue you for treason if you reveal it. Also they won't recognize its authenticity or put the wiretaps on public record for the trial either. That's not something unique to the US, I imagine that applies to 99% of the countries out there.

What's missing here is judicial oversight. Beyond that, it's not unheard of to gather evidence where those who supply it are compelled to silence. I believe that's standard fare for all wiretaps for example, the phone company can't inform you they're tapping your phone.

Re:Just throw it away (1)

rapiddescent (572442) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458311)

Interesting that they sent you a letter - especially since there is no way to repudiate that you received it, and no way for you to confirm they sent it.

I am not aware of USA FBI procedures, but surely if they required sensitive information then a uniformed officer would knock on the door, get the informant to sign whatever the equivalent of the Official Secrets Act and then conduct the information gathering - subject to evidence gathering rules so that the evidence can be used in a subsequent trial.

Also, this case sounds so much like pre-texting or a sophisticated social engineering hack - my view would be:

+ write a return letter to your local fbi office quoting the ref number to say you have received it and ask that they contact your secretary to book an appointment. ball in their court, all legally done, polite and none of your clients information leaked to a 3rd party.

rd

Re:Just throw it away (1)

Grinin (1050028) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458313)

Like hell they can't!

Our government can do absolutely whatever it likes right now, and it dares anyone to try and stop them.

Checks? Balances? No way, not today.

USA = USSR (5, Insightful)

brabo (409689) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457599)

When I was a kid (10 odd years), I remember the Soviet Union; massive check-points at borders, customs officers that gave you a cavity check at will, and a police state that didn't care much for the privacy or rights of it's citizens... Remember KGB (FSB now) and GRU ?? Anyone ??

That nightmare is now over, and I can freely go to and from Moscow, to visit my grandmother and friends. Or, I can have them board a plane and come to Amsterdam... with almost no delays at the border(s)...

But hey, those KGB and GRU bastards were hired by... the white house, and their methods are now common practice in the USA and it's 'allies'..

You yanks didn't win the cold war, you lost... but you kinda don't get it... but I'm sure your children will, and they will look at you for answers.

Re:USA = USSR (0)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457721)

We one the cold war, it's been over.

Are current situation has nothing to do with the cold war.

We one!????? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457753)

Jeez I must be tired. 'We one' instead of 'We won' is bad even for me.

Re:We one!????? (2, Funny)

theghost (156240) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457797)

But "Are current situation," is par for the course? ;)

Re:USA = USSR (1)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458213)

At this rate all the terrorists have to do is wait until we mis-spell ourselves to death!

Re:USA = USSR (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18457737)

That nightmare is now over

Who did Putin work for? What is he turning Russia into?

Re:USA = USSR (1)

brabo (409689) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457905)

Depends on your point of view.. and I by no means mean that Putin is an A-OK guy I would invite for dinner..

But true, Gorby was a far more cultivated and moral man.

And as for Russia... things could have been worse, but it's not only Putin, it's a whole lot of factors that determine the future. And Putin is more anti-war than our-favorite-drunk Jeltsin was...

My point is; there are (a lot) of similarities between what USA is today, and how things were in the USSR. And I don't want to compare Bush-Putin. All I say, that in lots of respects, you got the lifestyle of a Jew in Nazi Germany and/or a citizen in Stalins USSR.

Re:USA = USSR (3, Interesting)

0x0000 (140863) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457907)

You yanks didn't win the cold war, you lost...

Interesting you should say that - it's a point I've been trying to make for some years now - pretty much since the wall came down - We saw actual breadlines under Reagan and Bush I - not something that gets talked about much, but it always struck me that such were scenes straight out of the Cold War era anti-USSR propaganda disseminated in the US public schools...

but you kinda don't get it... but I'm sure your children will, and they will look at you for answers.

It's already happening - the answers areen't that difficult yet, since it's all right there in front of them - the hardest part is convincing the younger ones that it was ever any different.

Not a chance. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18457603)

It would never work with me. I'd get stressed, get wasted to relieve the stress and blab like there was no tomorrow.

Court Order (3, Interesting)

rlp (11898) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457611)

IANAL, but without a court order signed by a judge, it's a strongly worded REQUEST.

Re:Court Order (5, Informative)

jstomel (985001) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457953)

You obviously havn't read the PATRIOT act or the national security survailiance act. They explicitly give the FBI the ability to issue "National Security Letters" which have the force of warrents but don't need to be signed by a judge. You can be arrested for failing to comply, so they are somewhat more than a "request".

what happens if you ignore it? (4, Interesting)

axus (991473) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457617)

Do you get put on secret trial in a secret court? Or secret penalties from the IRS? What he should do is look at the info himself, and decide if something is suspicious. If it looks like something illegal going on, help out the FBI, if not then make them get a judge involved, and protect the privacy of his customer in the meantime.

Re:what happens if you ignore it? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18457693)

That's easy for you to say if you are not the one who could be locked up for any period of time, without a trial, based on the accusation that you are helping "terrorists"

Re:what happens if you ignore it? (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457757)

If it looks like something illegal going on, help out the FBI

"Illegal" or "wrong?" That's becoming a critical differentiation.

Re:what happens if you ignore it? (1)

flitty (981864) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458143)

Thanks to the suspension of Habeus Corpus a few months back by GW, you'll become a "Desaparecido", to never be heard from again.

My experience (5, Funny)

adnonsense (826530) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457649)

Recently I received CONTENT REMOVED from the --- regarding one of my CONTENT REMOVED. It was delivered personally by two CONTENT REMOVED in a black CONTENT REMOVED and they CONTENT REMOVED terrorist CONTENT REMOVED you're not for us CONTENT REMOVED us.

Under the terms of the CONTENT REMOVED Act it appears I cannot CONTENT REMOVED or CONTENT REMOVED or even badgers. They said they had installed special CONTENT REMOVED on my CONTENT REMOVED connection and would be watching out for transgressions - even something as innocuous as calling G.W. CONTENT REMOVED failure or librarians CONTENT REMOVED CONTENT REMOVED Harry Potter in Syria. Since contacting my la +++NO CARRIER+++

Re:My experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18457813)

That's what happens when you forget to post AC.

Re:My experience (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18458015)

From: REDACTED
To: adnonsense
Re: Your post to www.slashdot.org on Friday March 24 at 09:43 AM EDT titled "My experience"

Your unauthorized post regarding recent contact from REDACTED regarding REDACTED has been received and reviewed by REDACTED. It has been determined that REDACTED was not responsible for the censorship of this posting. Furthermore, because of the use of the phrase "CONTENT REMOVED" rather than approved and commanly accepted use of "REDACTED" it has been determined that you were in fact the one responsible for the entire post. As your post exposed the nature of REDACTED to REDACTED the result of which may be REDACTED or REDACTED we have no choice but to REDACTED by the use of REDACTED to REDACTED.

REDACTED will be contacting you shortly to arrange transportation to your new lodgings at Camp Echo, Gitmo in lovely Guantanamo Bay.

Regards,
REDACTED
REDACTED,REDACTED
REDACTED

I for one.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18457657)

I for one welcome our baton-weilding, secretive, power-hungry overlords. Oh, wait. I thought we'd gotten rid of them when we got rid of the Gestapo/Stazi/NKVD?!?

Ho-hum. Back to the police state it is,then.

Re:I for one.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18458247)

"Back to the police state it is,then."

What do you mean, "back"? Maybe more so federally. But there are those of us that believed we've been in a police state for decades now if you include all levels of government. And federally, we've been there for roughly 15 years, if we ever left. Where do you want to start?

We've seen a host of pro-prosecution laws for years now, ever since "violent crime" in the 1984 bail reform act considered inherently non-violent crimes as well. We see local officers murder people on tv (ever watch a shooting for someone who is presumed to have harmed an officer? it's an execution, not a chase), and most people don't bat an eye, much less these officers are prosecuted. And even the absurdly straightforward murders, there are huge delays to prosecution and often with reduced sentences if officers wipes regular civilians off the face of the planet. And that's murder--these counts don't include threats, harrassment (documented on /.), and false testimony which are just flat out overlooked or plea bargained away that it's a joke.

Many judges in this country are still elected, and will easily side with guilty from the start over presumed innocent to stay elected, thus they befriend the police. We even allow police officers to speak to chit-chat with those judges prior to hearings. We have people sitting in jail even though there is better scientific methods and samples to go through in order to *verify* that they should be in jail, but we don't run them. We give absolutely HUGE budgets to prosecution with no sense of balance to an adequate defense for those that cannot afford it.

Posse comitatus (the act) seems to three-quarters of the way out the door, and most people don't even know what that is, and it seems many even approve of it; the government doesn't even follow laws that restrict it. And I don't know how many laws I've read that are absurdly over the top, including those prima facie ones where they set guilt first if simple inadequately defined definitions are met. We've got victim "rights" now, with no balance whatsoever to the fairness of proceedings or laws.

And none of the above includes the post-9/11 crap we've seen. Oh, did I mention we Americans have an absolutely huge number of people in jail, or being "watched", or some listed offender, not to mention are databased to hell?

So, what did YOU mean again by "back"?

yes (5, Insightful)

Thaelon (250687) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457687)

I suspected that the FBI was abusing its power and that the letter sought information to which the FBI was not entitled.
According to the Fourth Amendment [wikipedia.org] you're right.
According to the PATRIOT Act [wikipedia.org] , you're not.

Re:yes (2, Informative)

dosius (230542) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457863)

If so then that part of the USAPATRIOTACT is null and void, as anything that conflicts with the Constitution in federal code is legally null and void.

-uso.

Re:yes (3, Funny)

lucabrasi999 (585141) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458289)

as anything that conflicts with the Constitution in federal code is legally null and void.

PHEW! That makes me feel better. OK. This conversation is over, everyone! It appears that the FBI may have been conflicting with the Constitution and therefore, it's legally null and void.

You can go home now! Nothing to see here!

Re:yes (2, Interesting)

dougmc (70836) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458315)

If so then that part of the USAPATRIOTACT is null and void, as anything that conflicts with the Constitution in federal code is legally null and void.
You know, that sounds great, but it won't be much comfort when you find yourself in a federal `pound you in the ass' prison.


Ultimately, being unconstitutional is not enough. You also need an appropriate judge to rule that it's unconstitutional, and until that happens it's really just you hoping that an appropriate judge might rule that it's unconstitutional -- if it ever comes to that.

It's not right, but it's the way it is. The current administration has been pretty loose in it's interpretation of the Constitution, and so far the other branches of government have not done much to stop it, though that may be slowly changing now. You may choose to violate the law because you know the law is unconstitutional -- and you may even be right -- but it would be wise to consider how long it might take to get things straightened out and what it'll cost you.

In Soviet America (0, Redundant)

AlphaLop (930759) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457705)

The letter writes what YOU say.....

Lawyer time (2, Insightful)

TinBromide (921574) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457711)

I'd hire an attorney and take the letter to him. Its questionable legal practice and a non-approved letter (no judge, no warrant, no due process), is only worth the paper and ink, nothing more.

They may see your non-cooperation and go through proper channels, but that's what the attorney is hired for. I'd reply that it'd be bad business practice to breach client information, but would happily cooperate with the courts if funneled through proper channels.

Name, rank, and serial number. All you gotta give.

Re:Lawyer time (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457795)

All papers from the government are just paper and ink. . . Backed by guns.

Re:Lawyer time (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457801)

Shya, you take that letter to a lawyer and the lawyer will give you the advice: do what it says and tell no-one that you showed me this.

Re:Lawyer time (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457833)

If I had received one of these (and I haven't) this would have been the first thing I would have done. Lawyers are expensive, but they know the legal system. As much as I would like to say that I would have sent a copy to my congressman (no sense in sending it to my senators, they work for the enemy in this case), I probably would have requested my lawyer send them a copy if he felt it was allowable.

I would sum up my thoughts: Don't fuck with the FBI. If you think you want to play games, or feel you need to make a point, make sure have a lawyer (and ideally a federal legislator) involved before you pull their tail.

Re:Lawyer time (1)

crimperman (225941) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457865)

I'd hire an attorney and take the letter to him.

Sigh - every now and then I forget this is Slashdot and I get surprised that nobody reads TFA :o)

from TFA:
Rather than turn over the information, I contacted lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union, and in April 2004 I filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the NSL power.

Re:Lawyer time (2, Informative)

TinBromide (921574) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457883)

not contact the aclu, although that would be a good step 2, I'd hire an attorney because until they're hired, its not client/attorney privilege. Taking the letter to a lawyer that you haven't hired without any signatures is akin to flashing the letter to random people and hoping its not a breach of the gag order.

Re:Lawyer time (1)

crimperman (225941) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458005)

It's quite likely he *has* hired some kind of legal counsel because he has brought a suit challenging the legality of the NSL. To do that without hiring legal representation would seem daft. Aside from that ( again from TFA):

Under the threat of criminal prosecution, I must hide all aspects of my involvement in the case -- including the mere fact that I received an NSL -- from my colleagues, my family and my friends. When I meet with my attorneys I cannot tell my girlfriend where I am going or where I have been. I hide any papers related to the case in a place where she will not look. When clients and friends ask me whether I am the one challenging the constitutionality of the NSL statute, I have no choice but to look them in the eye and lie.

Here he talks here of the case he is involved in and meeting with *his* attorneys. I take that to mean he has hired a lawyer.

Re:Lawyer time (3, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458259)

Attorney-client privilege applies generally if you meet with a lawyer to discuss a legal issue, even if you ultimately don't hire them, and even if it's a free consultation.

Re:Lawyer time (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457941)

They may see your non-cooperation and go through proper channels

They may see his non-cooperation and throw him in prison. That's the point. Revealing the letter, even to a lawyer, is now a crime.

Bill Maher said it really well (5, Interesting)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457723)

"Liberals must stop saying President Bush hasn't asked Americans to sacrifice for the war on terror. On the contrary, he's asked us to sacrifice something enormous. Our civil rights... so when it comes to sacrifice, don't kid yourself. You have given up a lot. You've given up faith in your government's honesty, the goodwill of people overseas, and six-tenths of the Bill of Rights. Here's what you've sacrificed: search and seizure, warrants, self-incrimination, trial by jury, cruel and unusual punishment. Here's what you have left: hand guns, religion, and they can't make you quarter a British soldier. If Prince Harry invades the Inland Empire, he has to bring a tent...

But, look, George Bush has never been too bright about understanding 'fereigners.' But he does know Americans. He asked this generation to sacrifice the things he knew we would not miss: our privacy and our morality. He let us keep the money. But he made a cynical bet that we wouldn't much care if we became a 'Big Brother' country that has now tortured a lot of random people...

In conclusion, after 9/11, President Bush told us Osama bin Laden could run but he couldn't hide. But, then he ran and hid. So, Bush went to Plan B: pissing on the Constitution and torturing random people...

They say evil happens when good men do nothing. Well, the Democrats prove it also happens when mediocre people do nothing."

Full text here [hbo.com] .

Re:Bill Maher said it really well (2, Informative)

daigu (111684) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458261)

Having hand guns and rifles is not a trivial thing. These are the tools that can be used to take one's liberty back - when you don't have any other options. It's why there is a 2nd Amendment.

Just imagine... (1)

hey0you0guy (1003040) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457765)

how many recipients of these letters followed orders and gave up the information. We would never even know about it. Kinda scary...

because this needs to be mirrored (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18457831)

My National Security Letter Gag Order

Friday, March 23, 2007; Page A17

It is the policy of The Washington Post not to publish anonymous pieces. In this case, an exception has been made because the author -- who would have preferred to be named -- is legally prohibited from disclosing his or her identity in connection with receipt of a national security letter. The Post confirmed the legitimacy of this submission by verifying it with the author's attorney and by reviewing publicly available court documents.

The Justice Department's inspector general revealed on March 9 that the FBI has been systematically abusing one of the most controversial provisions of the USA Patriot Act: the expanded power to issue "national security letters." It no doubt surprised most Americans to learn that between 2003 and 2005 the FBI issued more than 140,000 specific demands under this provision -- demands issued without a showing of probable cause or prior judicial approval -- to obtain potentially sensitive information about U.S. citizens and residents. It did not, however, come as any surprise to me.

Three years ago, I received a national security letter (NSL) in my capacity as the president of a small Internet access and consulting business. The letter ordered me to provide sensitive information about one of my clients. There was no indication that a judge had reviewed or approved the letter, and it turned out that none had. The letter came with a gag provision that prohibited me from telling anyone, including my client, that the FBI was seeking this information. Based on the context of the demand -- a context that the FBI still won't let me discuss publicly -- I suspected that the FBI was abusing its power and that the letter sought information to which the FBI was not entitled.

Rather than turn over the information, I contacted lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union, and in April 2004 I filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the NSL power. I never released the information the FBI sought, and last November the FBI decided that it no longer needs the information anyway. But the FBI still hasn't abandoned the gag order that prevents me from disclosing my experience and concerns with the law or the national security letter that was served on my company. In fact, the government will return to court in the next few weeks to defend the gag orders that are imposed on recipients of these letters.

Living under the gag order has been stressful and surreal. Under the threat of criminal prosecution, I must hide all aspects of my involvement in the case -- including the mere fact that I received an NSL -- from my colleagues, my family and my friends. When I meet with my attorneys I cannot tell my girlfriend where I am going or where I have been. I hide any papers related to the case in a place where she will not look. When clients and friends ask me whether I am the one challenging the constitutionality of the NSL statute, I have no choice but to look them in the eye and lie.

I resent being conscripted as a secret informer for the government and being made to mislead those who are close to me, especially because I have doubts about the legitimacy of the underlying investigation.

The inspector general's report makes clear that NSL gag orders have had even more pernicious effects. Without the gag orders issued on recipients of the letters, it is doubtful that the FBI would have been able to abuse the NSL power the way that it did. Some recipients would have spoken out about perceived abuses, and the FBI's actions would have been subject to some degree of public scrutiny. To be sure, not all recipients would have spoken out; the inspector general's report suggests that large telecom companies have been all too willing to share sensitive data with the agency -- in at least one case, a telecom company gave the FBI even more information than it asked for. But some recipients would have called attention to abuses, and some abuse would have been deterred.

I found it particularly difficult to be silent about my concerns while Congress was debating the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in 2005 and early 2006. If I hadn't been under a gag order, I would have contacted members of Congress to discuss my experiences and to advocate changes in the law. The inspector general's report confirms that Congress lacked a complete picture of the problem during a critical time: Even though the NSL statute requires the director of the FBI to fully inform members of the House and Senate about all requests issued under the statute, the FBI significantly underrepresented the number of NSL requests in 2003, 2004 and 2005, according to the report.

I recognize that there may sometimes be a need for secrecy in certain national security investigations. But I've now been under a broad gag order for three years, and other NSL recipients have been silenced for even longer. At some point -- a point we passed long ago -- the secrecy itself becomes a threat to our democracy. In the wake of the recent revelations, I believe more strongly than ever that the secrecy surrounding the government's use of the national security letters power is unwarranted and dangerous. I hope that Congress will at last recognize the same thing.

answering by omission? (3, Interesting)

ghostlibrary (450718) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457855)

If one is under a gag order, does one have to lie? From the article, "When clients and friends ask me whether I am the one challenging the constitutionality of the NSL statute, I have no choice but to look them in the eye and lie."

I would hope you can use the neutral "I cannot comment." The order does not say "lie about us" but "you can not discuss it." Yes, evasive answers can confirm suspicions in people (why else would they not answer?), but that should still be legit.

Similarly, meeting with an attorney on a case you can't discuss, just say "I'm meeting with an attorney, can't discuss, sorry."

Anyone else run into being forced to lie?

Re:answering by omission? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18457961)

How do you tell your wife, girlfriend, family members, and employer that you need time every week to visit an attorney without explaining why. Yeah, I don't see a problem with that.

Re:answering by omission? (1)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458201)

You tell your wife you are visiting your mistress,
you tell your mistress you are meeting some other woman,
you tell your kids to mind their own business, and get off my lawn!

Re:answering by omission? (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457993)

Some people consider omitting the truth lying.

Re:answering by omission? (1)

jstomel (985001) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458073)

IANAL, but my recollection is that it is illegal to even talk about the gag order. So you couldn't say, "I am forbidden by law to talk about that." You could say nothing, or "I don't want to talk about that." "I can't talk about that" is kind of fuzzy.

Take action BEFORE you get the letter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18458115)

ISPs who support civil rights could put a daily statement on their home page, or better yet email a daily statement to each subscriber stating that "There are currently no law enforcement investigations of subscribers." Then when the FBI comes knocking, the statement comes down.

Here's what you do (3, Interesting)

fudgefactor7 (581449) | more than 7 years ago | (#18457923)

Make multiple copies of the NSL, along with your story, set it all up so that in 30 days, if you do nothing, they get mailed out to all the media outlets, faxed out of the country to overseas media (BBC, et. al.) and then you go and hold a public announcement in front of the Capitol and say "Nope, not gonna do it." Utterly refuse to obey a law that is "evil."
 
The biggest weapon against overbearing government is transparency. If a government cannot withstand scrutiny, they are doing something very wrong. The PATRIOT act is the biggest piece of shit written, and Congress (most of whom never read it) just rolled over. Were they a computer, I'd FDISK them and start over.

Re:Here's what you do (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458193)

It's a bad move to make threats. Either they can stop you from carrying them out, in which case you're totally fucked anyway, or they can convince you (through threats of prison rape, arresting your family on bogus charges, seizing all your bank accounts and leaving you homeless, and the like) to not carry them out. If you're going to be defiant, you've got to do it immediately and irrevocably. If you get such a letter, your window for defiance is very short.

you always have a choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18457967)

a gag order is only a piece of paper. it only has the authority that you give it. if this fellow had said, "No, and by the way here's a public declaration that I got the letter." they couldn't have stopped him. they could have applied the penalties of law to him, but only AFTER he had gone public.

sure, they can silence a few. but if *everyone* who had gotten one of these letters had immediately gone public with it?

a law assumes that only a few people will disobey, and be subject to punishment. but when many many people disobey a bad law as a matter of course, it causes the law itself to be questioned, and perhaps overturned.

Re:you always have a choice (1)

Tony (765) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458225)

. . . but when many many people disobey a bad law as a matter of course, it causes the law itself to be questioned, and perhaps overturned.

Yes. Like speeding laws. Or laws concerning the use of marijuana. Bad laws get overturned all the time.

PATRIOT act (0, Flamebait)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458035)

The USA is officially in a limited state of emergency, so this is not normal.

In liberal America .. (-1, Troll)

BESTouff (531293) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458041)

In liberal America, the government (for the people, by the people) controls YOU !

Re:In liberal America .. (4, Insightful)

Phreakiture (547094) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458141)

In liberal America, the government (for the people, by the people) controls YOU !

Excuse me?!? Did you completely fail to notice that it was a conservative administration that did this shit? I'm a liberal, and I want my fucking rights back, motherfucker!

Re:In liberal America .. (0, Troll)

BESTouff (531293) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458207)

Oh yes, sorry, it's true you have the "liberal" meaning reversed over there ... I think I just meant the opposite you think I meant with this word.

Goldstein? (1)

flitty (981864) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458051)

When do they broadcast the 2 minutes of hate again? I must have missed it this morning.

Better way to deal with it (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18458077)

If I'd received one of those letters, I wouldn't want the hard copy just sitting around. So I'd scan it, and then shred the original. Then I'd store the electronic copy on a secure place on my hard drive. But it sure would be a tragedy if a couple days later some "hacker" mysteriously broke into my computer and got a copy of the letter and then put it on a P2P network for all to see. Gosh, FBI, that's too bad. I feel just terrible it got leaked, but I did everything I could to protect it. Too bad I'm just a normal citizen and not qualified to store classified information in my home, so I guess it's not really my fault. Sorry guys.

Section 505 ruled unconstitutional (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18458105)

According to wikipedia:

Section 505 ruled unconstitutional

On September 29, 2004, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero struck down Section 505--which allowed the government to issue "National Security Letters" to obtain sensitive customer records from Internet service providers and other businesses without judicial oversight--as a violation of the First and Fourth Amendment. The court also found the broad gag provision in the law to be an "unconstitutional prior restraint" on free speech, so it was turned down.


So, why can't this guy talk about it yet? the law has been struck down.

yuo- Faili It? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18458133)

Patriot Act (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18458199)

9/11 may have been devastating, but it's not even close to the damage of turning the world's last super power into a police state.

It's more and more obvious that someone is so up for impeachment...

Rules (3, Funny)

allscan (1030606) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458237)

The first rule of National Security Letters is you will not talk about...ah you get the point.

Welcome to the land of the Free... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18458249)

and you're welcome to it.

This makes me shudder... (1)

CowboyJezus (1078993) | more than 7 years ago | (#18458297)

Is this really a power that we have given the FBI? I thought only the KGB could terrorize citizens like this.

US Elections were 3 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18458337)

The time he filed the challenge was as the US presidential election campaign was starting.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?