Mar 15, 2013
Judge Susan Illston of the San Francisco Federal District Court slapped down the law as unconstitutional because it bans companies from disclosing the FBI's data seizure order, known as a National Security Letter.
The secret surveillance tool routinely used by the FBI to get information on American citizens without any court oversight violates The First Amendment, especially with its gag order, according to the California federal judge.
18 U.S.C. §§ 2709(c) and 3511(b) give the Federal Bureau of Investigation power to stop a court from ordering disclosure, which mocks the Constitution's separation of powers, say legal experts.
Evidently, the result of such odd legislation is that U.S. citizens are spied upon by federal spooks while the companies Americans do business with have been federally gagged from ever telling customers they are surveillance targets.
What are the requirements to issue a National Security Letter? The records demanded by the FBI must be considered "relevant" to a national security investigation.
No warrant is required at all, your data must be handed over, and you cannot ever know that it is happening --- HEIL HITLER! --- and thousands of Americans are under such Nazi surveillance every single year.
America's founding fathers are rolling in their graves, no doubt.
Are you under secret federal surveillance? Has your phone company, Internet service provider, bank or credit agency been secretly forced to rat you out?
You don't deserve to know --- even though you are paying the spooks' salaries!
Judge Susan Illston makes no bones about it. She wants the issuance of National Security Letters stopped on constitutional grounds.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the California-based nonprofit privacy rights organization that filed suit on behalf of a (sealed) telecommunications business that did not want to cooperate with National Security Letters.
(Disclaimer: The publisher of Californiality is a member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.)
Is the FBI's pervasive use of gag orders and failure to show such orders' importance in protecting national security something that a "reasonable person" might find unconstitutional, Soviet and creepy?
It appears that Judge Susan Illston thinks so. She has effectively slapped down an intrusive feature of The Patriot Act to the cheers of many Americans.
The FBI is not happy and the Obama administration reportedly plans to appeal Judge Illston's ruling within 90 days.
Many find it ironic that former constitutional law professor Barack Obama is, in his own way, teaching Americans more about their constitutional rights than any president ever has.