Last year the Internet Archive, a California based digital library, received a National Security Letter (NSL) from the FBI requesting access to personal information (name, address and electronic communication records) related to a specific user.
Contained within the letter was a gag order, a Statute of the 2001 Patriot Act, which prevented the Internet Archive’s Digital Librarian from discussing the request with co-workers, the library’s Board of Director, or the ACLU. The librarian in question, however, filed a lawsuit with the support of the Internet Archive, ACLU and EFF to challenge the NSL as unconstitutional and an abuse of power by the FBI.
Fortunately the Internet Archive won their case and the FBI withdrew their original request. But what’s happed in other cases? It’s been suggested that over a five year period (2001 – 2006) the FBI has issued almost 200,000 similar letters and with the exception of a few high profile cases, including the John Doe Librarians of Connecticut, there have been very few challenges, despite the fact that:
“…every time a national security letter recipient has challenged an NSL in court and forced the government to justify it, the government has ultimately withdrawn its demand for records”
(Melissa Goodman, Attorney, ACLU).
Thanks to David for forwarding on this story.