One less gag

If this (go here for more and here for the ruling) is upheld, then the secret security apparatus will be just a bit smaller:

A California district court on Friday ruled that the FBI’s controversial national security letters (NSLs) are unconstitutional.

Two provisions of the federal law governing NSLs violate the Constitution, but because the NSL program cannot exist without those provisions, the court halted the entire NSL program.

The judgment will not go into effect for 90 days, pending appeal.

The FBI can issue an NSL to a telecom company or bank to obtain identifying information about a subscriber, and the agency has the power to demand that the recipients of the letters remain silent.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), acting on behalf of an unnamed telecom company, sued over these NSLs in May 2011, arguing that they were unconstitutional. Today, the court found that the gag order aspect of the NSLs violates the First Amendment, while the fact that the FBI can issue NSLs without court approval violates separation of powers.

According to the EFF, the first NSL statute was passed in 1986, but the constitutionality of the program has only been challenged once before 2011. Between 2003 and 2006 alone, the FBI issued more than 200,000 requests for customer information via NSLs.

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