Fourth Amendment

National Security Letters May Be Unconstitutional, But That's No Reason To Disobey Them, Says Judge


Reason 24/7

Back in March, U.S. District court judge Susan Illston ordered the federal government to stop issuing national security letters, saying the things, which come with attached gag orders forbidding recipients to reveal that they've been compelled to cough up information to the feds, are thoroughly unconstitutional. Nevermind! Now, Judge Ilston says Google must comply with an NSL after the company refused to do anything of the sort in the wake of the judge's earlier order. The feds went to court to strong-arm the Internet giant into submission, and they appear to have had their wish fulfilled.

From The Guardian:

A US judge has ordered Google to comply with FBI secret demands for customer data, despite earlier ruling the warrantless orders unconstitutional.

District court judge Susan Illston this week rejected the internet search giant's argument that so-called National Security Letters (NSLs) violated its constitutional rights. As such it ordered Google to hand over private information relating to US citizens to federal agents.

It comes despite Illston earlier ruling the letters unconstitutional in a separate case in March. In that case, brought by non-profit advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the judge said that such demands violated the right to free speech.

Google still has the right to appeal, which appears likely considering the frequency with which the company has battled governments over privacy issues. The Justice Department is separately suing Google in New York to compel the company's compliance with national security letters. Google has already skated close to the limits of the law by revealing that the FBI has targeted thousands of accounts with its NSLs.

In coverage of the New York case, CNet speculates that Google is fighting so hard because the NSLs it has received reach far beyond what the (very permissive) law allows. There's precedent for just that. An NSL sent to ISP owner Nicholas Merrill "signed by then-FBI national security attorney Marion Bowman, requested more than federal law permitted," including such off-limits data as the Websites people visited and their email header information.

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  1. District court judge Susan Illston this week rejected the internet search giant’s argument that so-called National Security Letters (NSLs) violated its constitutional rights.

    You see what happens when groups of two or more people think they can retain their constitutional rights? Anarchy!

    1. Sorry, that should read “KKKorporate Oligarchy”!


    Um… Was Thrones over budget and needed to save some bucks on salaries?

    1. Have you read the books? The answer to your question lies in them.

      1. Read. Who has time? I see the movie. I’m in and out in two hours.

    2. Hey, if you’re disappointed now, just wait until season 4 when Daenerys accidentally gets killed in a friendly fire incident involving her Unsullied troops!

    3. Jeff Jimerson absolutely killin’ it. Lyndon Slewidge is such a bitch in comparison.

    4. They’re too busy cutting off Theon’s penis to actually be bothered with elaborating on the story.

    5. Epi is the only one who watches that faggy Dungeons & Dragons show.

  3. Uh, Nurnenberg ring any bells?

    1. The Bells of Nurnenberg was probably my least favorite Vonnegut novel. Somehow the idea of a man trying to recreate Kant’s lost works by adopting his exacting daily schedule, only to find that he ended up in the wrong city and so wrote everything in a language he didn’t understand felt kind of flat to me. Novelty for its own sake you know? And the sex scene with the portly woman named Arya Natien just seemed gratuitous.

  4. I’m beginning to suspect that the Constitution doesn’t mean as much as it was hyped up to mean.

    1. No, it doesn’t. At least, not as long a no one steps up to defend it. Otherwise, it really is nothing but a dusty old piece of paper.

    2. I was just thinking about the post Katrina gun confiscations.

    3. Hey, they can take your DNA without your consent, why worry about some interweb records?

  5. So we have an NLRB that has been unconstitutional for a year or so, but the rulings still apply.
    And now we have an unconstitutional demand for information, but you still have to supply it.
    Venezuela’s out of toilet tissue, maybe we could sell copies of the constitution there?

    1. Aha! A plot by the Yanquis to foist their repudiated system on the wonder Bolivarian paradise of Venezuela!

      1. Hey! There’s no reason to read the damn thing! The US courts don’t bother.

        1. Do you think government employees have a hard time not giggling while swearing to uphold the constitution?

          1. “Do you think government employees have a hard time not giggling while swearing to uphold the constitution?”

            The problem I have with that image reflects the stupidity/conspiracy assumption.
            No, I don’t think the giggle, since I doubt seriously if many of them have read it, let alone tried to understand why it came about.
            I have a suspicion that the general view is from 5th grade civics class: “These guys got together and formed a government, and wrote some stuff down. Isn’t that wonderful? Oh, and there’s a pep rally this afternoon”

            1. That is probably true. Most people have an opinion and then look for “facts” to back it up. See general welfare clause of the constitution.

  6. “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

    1. I like the rest of that….his example that a person should be able to believe that a situation is hopeless yet strive to remedy that.

      A cheap semantic trick worthy of a church sign.

      Most of the time when people say things are hopeless they are exaggerating. They dont really believe that. When they really believe that they usually commit suicide.

  7. I sometimes get the feeling that the works of Franz Kafka are required reading in law school, as a how-to manual.

  8. District court judge Susan Illston…

    For more fun with Judge Illston, check Sony v. Hotz.

    Short version: Man jailbreaks PS3, allows users to control firmware and software. Naturally, Sony is displeased with people buying their products and then using them as the purchaser sees fit and sues Hotz. Illston orders his PayPal, Facebook, Twitter, website and Aqua Buddha knows what else seized.

    1. Maybe he can make do with a clone and claim immunity under double jeopardy.

  9. Obey, citizen!

  10. an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said: “We are disappointed that the same judge who declared these letters unconstitutional is now requiring compliance with them.”

    We are disappointed that the same judge is not immediately unseated.

  11. OK wow thats some crazy stuff man. Wow.

  12. Since the left does not believe that corporations can be ‘people’, then they should be backing the FBI in this. Google does not have Constitutional Rights.

  13. Lucky Google. The FBI never sends me any national security letters. I’d be so proud of them, I’d post them to my Facebook page.

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