Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the governing of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.”     Thomas Jefferson,    First Inaugural Address

March 23, 2007

First Rule Of Fight Club — Don’t Talk About Your National Security Letter

by Brad Warbiany

A story from the WaPo about the person who is fighting against the practices of issuing National Security Letters. While the author’s identity wasn’t publicized, the WaPo claims they’ve checked out his story. It’s chilling.

My National Security Letter Gag Order

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 cannot see any way to justify this behavior by our government. I cannot reconcile these tactics with the principles of a free society. This falls right in with the quasi-suspension of habeas corpus.

Is there any conclusion to make other than the thought that our rights are simply not even a concern to our security apparatus?


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