Friday, March 23, 2007

My National Security Letter Gag Order

The Stasi lives!
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"I resent being conscripted as a secret informer for the government and being made to mislead those who are close to me, especially because I have doubts about the legitimacy of the underlying investigation."
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Friday, March 23, 2007; A17

It is the policy of The Washington Post not to publish anonymous pieces. In this case, an exception has been made because the author -- who would have preferred to be named -- is legally prohibited from disclosing his or her identity in connection with receipt of a national security letter. The Post confirmed the legitimacy of this submission by verifying it with the author's attorney and by reviewing publicly available court documents.

The Justice Department's inspector general revealed on March 9 that the FBI has been systematically abusing one of the most controversial provisions of the USA Patriot Act: the expanded power to issue "national security letters." It no doubt surprised most Americans to learn that between 2003 and 2005 the FBI issued more than 140,000 specific demands under this provision -- demands issued without a showing of probable cause or prior judicial approval -- to obtain potentially sensitive information about U.S. citizens and residents. It did not, however, come as any surprise to me.

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 resent being conscripted as a secret informer for the government and being made to mislead those who are close to me, especially because I have doubts about the legitimacy of the underlying investigation.

The inspector general's report makes clear that NSL gag orders have had even more pernicious effects. Without the gag orders issued on recipients of the letters, it is doubtful that the FBI would have been able to abuse the NSL power the way that it did. Some recipients would have spoken out about perceived abuses, and the FBI's actions would have been subject to some degree of public scrutiny. To be sure, not all recipients would have spoken out; the inspector general's report suggests that large telecom companies have been all too willing to share sensitive data with the agency -- in at least one case, a telecom company gave the FBI even more information than it asked for. But some recipients would have called attention to abuses, and some abuse would have been deterred.

I found it particularly difficult to be silent about my concerns while Congress was debating the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in 2005 and early 2006. If I hadn't been under a gag order, I would have contacted members of Congress to discuss my experiences and to advocate changes in the law. The inspector general's report confirms that Congress lacked a complete picture of the problem during a critical time: Even though the NSL statute requires the director of the FBI to fully inform members of the House and Senate about all requests issued under the statute, the FBI significantly underrepresented the number of NSL requests in 2003, 2004 and 2005, according to the report.

I recognize that there may sometimes be a need for secrecy in certain national security investigations. But I've now been under a broad gag order for three years, and other NSL recipients have been silenced for even longer. At some point -- a point we passed long ago -- the secrecy itself becomes a threat to our democracy. In the wake of the recent revelations, I believe more strongly than ever that the secrecy surrounding the government's use of the national security letters power is unwarranted and dangerous. I hope that Congress will at last recognize the same thing.

4 comments:

truth seeker said...

are you and your client truly innocent...or are you zionist traitors screaming for protections you would have denied to others ? the fact that the wapo and aclu are taking your case sure makes me think you and your client might be like the zio aipac treasonists...but how convenient we can't have any more details

Marshall said...

to truth seeker...

you need to read the book "worse than watergate" to truly understand how out of touch you are with the reality of this situation - it has nothing to do with AIPAC and everything to do with Bush/Cheney's reversal of everything that was 'corrected' after the Nixon Watergate scandal...

You seem to forget our Rights originaly established by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution - the protection against the government's encroachment upon our privacy! We're living in an experimental republic democracy defined by the Constitution and this type of 'sneek & peek' defined by the so-called PATRIOT act is UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

When the Government fears the people, that's when you know our system is alive and running the way it was defined.

When the people fear the Government, it's called a dictatorship!

Anonymous said...

It is not a gag order, it is censorship. After all, censorship is becoming America's favorite past-time. The US gov't (and their corporate friends), already detain protesters, ban books like "America Deceived" America Deceived (book) from Wiki, and fire 21-year tenured, BYU physics professor Steven Jones because he proved explosives, thermite in particular, took down the WTC buildings.
If a law is unconstitutional, you do NOT have to follow it. Reveal your info here and now. Let the chips fall where they may. Samuel Adams would have revealed it. Ben Franklin would have revealed it. John Adams would have revealed it. George Washington would have revealed it. So should you. Start throwing the tea in the water.

NATIONAL-SECURITY-4-US said...

YOU KNOW I TOLD O.P.R. IN A 3 PAGE LETTER THAT I BELIEVED NSL's WERE USED TO STEER CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEYS AWAY FROM TAKING MY CASE ON 9/13/2005 LONG BEFORE THIS BECAME KNOWN PUBLICLY...

YOU SEE AFTER THE 5/26/2004 PRESS CONFERENCE OF ASHCROFT & MUELLER WHO RELEASED THOSE 7 PEOPLES PHOTOS
TO THE PUBLIC ASKING ALL AMERICANS TO BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR THEM...

WELL ON 5/29/2004 AT 6 PM IN PORT ST.LUCIE,FLORIDA 2 OF THE 7 WERE CAPTURED FROM MY VIGILANCE & MY 911
CALL...FAZUL ABDULLAH MOHAMMED & AAFIA SIDDIQUI WERE CAPTURED & IN THE NEXT 10 DAYS I SPOTTED 4 OF THE
REMAINING 5 & DID WHAT I WAS ASKED TO DO - REPORT IT...

WELL THE 5/29/2004 CAPTURED WERE COVERED BECAUSE OF EITHER THE DIABOLICAL & SINISTER PROBABILITY THAT THIS CELL WAS HERE TO DO A ATTACK FOR PURPOSES OF SUSPENDING THE CONSTITUTION/POSTPONING THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS BY WAY OF E.O.13083 - WHICH WAS REVISED & RE-WRITTEN WITH FAR MORE SERIOUS LANGUAGE...

F.A.M. HAD A 25 MILLION DOLLAR REWARD AS DID ANOTHER I SPOTTED A AHMED KHALFAN GHAILANI WHO WAS FLOWN TO PAKISTAN TO DENY & AVOID PAYING HIS REWARD...

SENATOR LEAHY WAS TOLD ABOUT THIS LONG BEFORE THE CIA SECRET PRISON STORY BECAME PUBLIC AS WERE OTHERS.

SENATOR FEINSTEIN & OTHERS WERE TOLD THAT 3 CELLPHONES & MY HOME NUMBER WERE BEING ILLEGALLY MONITORED IN 2004 LONG BEFORE THE NSA WIRETAPPING BECAME PUBLIC...

HARMAN TOLD GOSS WHO TOLD BUSH WHO ELEVATED HIM TO CIA DIRECTOR SINCE TENET WAS THE FALL GUY SINCE THIS CELL PENETRATED AMERICA WHICH WAS DOMESTICALLY & MUELLERS'HEAD SHOULD
OF ROLLED...

WELL THEY KNOW I MADE THE CALL THAT
LED TO THE CAPTURES & DOJ LEARNED OF MY IDENTITY WHEN THE (SIC)HELD A
HEARING IN 1/2005 GRILLING MUELLER-
GONZALES & GOSS...

TO MAKE THIS VERY LONG STORY SHORT
CALLS WERE MONITORED TO STOP ME FROM GETTING A CIVIL RIGHTS LAWYER & I BELIEVE MANY NSL's WERE SENT TO
THOSE I CALLED TO INTIMIDATE & OR MANIPULATE THEM INTO STEERING CLEAR
OF THESE MATTERS BY BEING A MATTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY OR A ON-GOING TERRORISM INVESTIGATION...

SO THEY EITHER STOLE THE REWARD MONEY OR NEVER INTENDED TO PAY IT OUT OR THESE PEOPLE WERE COVERTLY HERE TO BRING DOWN AMERICAS' FREEDOMS/LIBERTIES BY & THROUGH THE
NEXT ATTACK...

HERE IS THE WORST F.A.M. WAS HELD FOR LIKE 30 MONTHS & SUDDENLY SURFACED IN SOMALIA IN 1/2007 & WAS
TARGETED FOR ASSASSINATION BY THOSE
AIRSTRIKES --- YET HE GOT AWAY...

HE WAS RELEASED & DUMPED THERE TO BE KILLED TO COVER-UP THE CRIMES THAT WERE INITIALLY COVERED-UP...

SO NOW AMERICA HAS RESORTED TO RELEASING A MOST WANTED TERRORIST WHO WAS UNDER U.S. FEDERAL INDICTMENT FOR THE 1998 EMBASSY BOMBINGS - SIMPLY BECAUSE THIS ADMINISTRATION NEVER INTENDED TO HONOR THEIR WORD OR THE VARIOUS LAWS OF THE LAND DEALING WITH THE REWARDS PROCESS...

ASHCROFT-POWELL-RIDGE-RENYA & MANY OTHERS RESIGNED OUT OF DISGRACE FOR
THOSE WHO DISAVOWED MY ACTIONS & DESTROYED MY LIFE IN THE PROCESS 4
DOING THE RIGHT THING & A NOBLE DEED FOR MY COUNTRY IN TIMES OF CRISIS...

SO "CATCH & RELEASE" - A SERIAL KILLER IS THE MOTTO FOR ALL THOSE WHO DO KNOW ABOUT THIS-THE INITIAL
CAPTURE & SUBSEQUENT RELEASE...

WHAT A FUCKING COUNTRY WE HAVE HERE