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Censorship Government Privacy United States Politics IT

IT and A National Security Letter Gag Order 468

Posted by Zonk
from the land-that-i-love dept.
fstyke writes "An article in the Washington Post (anonymous for obvious reasons) describes the trauma the president of a small US IT company faces after receiving a National Security Letter. This is sent by the FBI demanding information (140000+ have been sent between 2003/2005 according to the article). Makes for an interesting read of the side effects of receiving such a letter and its requirements for the recipient to remain silent about even the fact he/she has received it.'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.'"
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IT and A National Security Letter Gag Order

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  • This must change (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman @ g m a i l . c om> on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:33AM (#18457539) Homepage Journal
    Having secret police and no accountability goes against the very grain of what the United States stands for, and what the Constitution says. Our forefathers explicitly ensured that we would have the rights necessary to overthrow our government if things got out of hand. The government exists to serve the people, not the other way around.

    If you haven't done so already, I highly recommend contacting your representatives [house.gov], writing to your local newspaper, and otherwise telling anyone who will hear that this is unacceptable. We cannot have the government secretly snooping around in our private information and lives. Let's kick up a stormcloud and make sure this gets changed!
    • Re:This must change (Score:5, Informative)

      by Hatta (162192) on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:42AM (#18457635) Journal
      Having secret police and no accountability goes against the very grain of what the United States stands for, and what the Constitution says.

      Absolutely. Also remember that in our system the only way to challenge a law as unconstitutional is to break it. Anyone who gets one of these letters has a moral responsibility to disobey it. The government issued over 140,000 of these letters with gag orders. We should have 140,000 people in jail right now for talking about them, nothing else could demonstrate how abusive these letters are.
      • by OddThinking (1078509) on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:51AM (#18457749)

        Anyone who gets one of these letters has a moral responsibility to disobey it.

        The problem is many of those 140,000 also have other moral responsibilities, such as providing for their children. I think a good 10,000 would do the trick.

        • by eck011219 (851729) on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:09AM (#18457997)
          Indeed. There may be a moral responsibility to disobey the unconstitutional law, but there is at least technically a legal responsibility to obey it. While I applaud what this guy did (and it sounds like he's relatively unencumbered by family responsibilities, though you can't really know that from the article), I think about dragging my wife and daughter through this kind of thing and my skin crawls. And really, they are bigger than me -- could be that I'd fight the good fight, whittle away my and my family members' lives and resources, and then end up in jail anyway.

          I'm not saying I wouldn't do it or that the guy was wrong to do it -- I think he's spot on in his reasoning and approach. But this administration and its worker bees throughout the rest of the federal government have shown an uncanny ability to destroy people -- a very scary thought. At least we have Congress starting to fight them now.
          • There may be a moral responsibility to disobey the unconstitutional law, but there is at least technically a legal responsibility to obey it.

            Not really. If the law is unconstitutional to begin with, there's no onus on anyone to obey it. It's the government is acting illegally here, not you. Don't be so quick to kow-tow to imperial officials waving official orders about. You'll set a bad example.
            • Re:This must change (Score:5, Interesting)

              by eck011219 (851729) on Friday March 23, 2007 @11:18AM (#18459039)
              That is true in theory, but tell that to the agents at your door. I'm not saying one should follow unjust laws, nor am I suggesting one kow-tow to the officials. All I am saying is that the officials charged with the task of enforcing the law are going to do so until told otherwise by their superiors, which puts the average joe in a stinker of a position and leaves him making some difficult choices between doing what's right and doing what will preserve the safety of his family and himself.

              It's actions like these by the FBI that exemplify the problems with the system. The government is going nowhere, and they have basically unlimited resources. They can just ride these things out. Look at the prisoners held indefinitely without trial or legal representation all over the place (Guantanamo is the most famous, but there are lots of places even in the states where it happens -- Cook County jail here in Chicago, for example). They're too scary for a lot of people, and therefore they get what they want. Simple oversight and adherence to the law by the agencies in question would fix a lot of this, but in the meantime, citizens, both innocent and otherwise, have some very real practical worries.
              • DoS the Feds. (Score:4, Interesting)

                by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) * on Friday March 23, 2007 @11:29AM (#18459217) Homepage Journal
                Subvert the Data. Give 'em TONS of useless garbage, that is a wate of time, and both difficult and time-consuming to use.

                Obfuscate, delay and malinger.
              • by crabpeople (720852) on Friday March 23, 2007 @04:36PM (#18464259) Journal

                "which puts the average joe in a stinker of a position and leaves him making some difficult choices between doing what's right and doing what will preserve the safety of his family and himself."
                Anyone who chose his family condems all families to live in tyranny. Its the same as when adama threatened to kill the chiefs wife because as he put it, *paraphrasing* when people pursue their own selfish goals, instead of the goal of the fleet then no ones children are safe.

                Do you want your children to grow up in a world where you didnt fight the state back, when it is behaving contrary to the interests of the represented peoples and the supposed ideals of said state?

            • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Friday March 23, 2007 @01:43PM (#18461163)
              I love youngsters. I suggest that you examine what happens to people who provide medical marijuana, people who blow the whistle on illegal chemical and bacteriological warfare attempts by the US, people who exposed the CIA use of LSD in experiments as an interrogation drug in the 60's, the McCarthy era's hunt for "Communists" at the massive cost of civil liberties, the illegal imprisoning of foreign nationals without charges filed or the Geneva convention or the US code of military justice allwed to apply to them,

              Brave people do stand up to such abuse: but the risk for a small business owner of refusing to cooperate is quite high, even if they win in court. Take a look at Steve Jackson Games and the old Secret Service raid on them for an example of how badly aimed such an investigation can be, and of how innocent people can suffer as they try to stand up for themselves in the IT world.
              • Re:This must change (Score:4, Interesting)

                by crabpeople (720852) on Friday March 23, 2007 @06:16PM (#18465561) Journal
                I love old people who are too scared and complacent to stand up for what they believe is right. Its one thing to be a coward, but please don't disuade or scare other people who are willing to risk their very lives, by fighting. Life is suffering. Might as well live it honourably and with principled purpose.

            • Re:This must change (Score:5, Interesting)

              by sustik (90111) on Friday March 23, 2007 @02:31PM (#18462015)
              I got the impression that the gag order became the more stressful aspect, he writes:

              "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 wonder who can issue a gag order in the USA? An answer from a lawyer would be appreciated. It appears that the FBI thinks that they can issue gag orders without a judge's approval. I hope that a violation of such order is viewed leniently at least by a judge if not a jury. (On the other hand, violating the gag order may result in a terrorism charge and hence a loss of the right to the normal judicial process; and you do not want to wait 4+ years in military prison while Congress/Supreme Court/President figures the process out for you.)

              He also complains that he was forced to lie:

              "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 wonder why that is. Does the gag order describe this in detail? Why cannot you stay silent and say nothing or say that you are not allowed to discuss the matter based on your attorney's advice? (Using the latter form if you consult an attorney about this, which I certainly would do.)

              My point is: can any (even judge underwritten) gag order force you to actively protect the information by telling a lie? What if your religion instructs you not to lie? I have no exact numbers how popular such religions are in the USA, but some are surely affected... :-;
              • Re:This must change (Score:5, Informative)

                by BJZQ8 (644168) on Friday March 23, 2007 @04:41PM (#18464359) Homepage Journal
                Look up the case of Bill Cheek sometime. He was an electronics hobbyist producing a very simple box that sliced up PSK data streams so, for instance, a hobbyist could decode police dispatching systems. He produced them for sale. With absolutely no warning, FBI agents raided his house and took practically everything he had to make a living, from computers to paper records, and refused to let him touch them at all. The production of data slicers was not illegal, nor was it particularly serious. It was basically people in the government harassing someone. The government dragged his case out for months, until he died of lung cancer. He was saddled with thousands of dollars of legal fees, and eventually his wife was too. There is no way you can stand up to the government; they have unlimited resources and lawyers on tap. It may be a moral imperative, but that has to intersect with practicality for the individual, too.
          • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Friday March 23, 2007 @11:01AM (#18458775) Journal
            "I think about dragging my wife and daughter through this kind of thing and my skin crawls."

            Does the thought that the government is increasing its unrestricted powers make your skin crawl more or less? If less, I suggest you review the previous states of USSR and Nazi Germany, where the police had unrestricted powers unchecked by independent parties.

            My view is that there is nothing that makes my skin crawl but pseudo secret letters that supposedly have gag orders attached. I'm sorry, but First Amendment of the US Constitution says you have a right to speak your mind.

            I can't think of anything creepier than secret power hungry government agencies that abuse and restrict GOD GIVEN RIGHTS in the name of security. I sure don't feel more "secure" with them, do you?
            • by crabpeople (720852) on Friday March 23, 2007 @06:23PM (#18465631) Journal

              "GOD GIVEN RIGHTS"
              There is no such thing. Your ancestors fought and died for those rights. Attributing them to divinity disrespects your ancestors sacrifice, and the sacrifices of all who oppose tyranny and opression.
              "God" can lick a nut for all the good he ever did, all the help he ever was.

              • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Friday March 23, 2007 @06:44PM (#18465857) Journal
                If there is no god, then there are no "rights" other than what man creates for himself. If he can create it, then he can destroy it, and thus, they aren't "rights".

                The idea that rights are "self evident" are also tagged with "endowed by their creator" and thus they are "inalienable". Our ancestors (who fought and died) were much smarter than you think they were, which is why that line is so important in the US Declaration of Independence.

                See the problem with Atheists (I assume your one of them), is that they want the benefits of the wisdom of our fathers, without the reason they were so wise. You see, in the US of A, our essential founding doctrine says that certain rights are indeed endowed by our Creator, and that these rights are SELF EVIDENT namely because they are derived from a higher source. If you take away the higher source, you are left holding an empty bag.

                But of course the average atheist teacher can't articulate why they have any rights what so ever. Just ask them "why?" they have rights. See if they can actually articulate it without self reference (Circular Logic).
                • by fruitbane (454488) on Friday March 23, 2007 @07:31PM (#18466337) Homepage
                  Why not take the view that these "self evident" rights appear to be self evident because they are somehow beneficial to the social organization of humans? Or at least that they are consistent with the nature of human intelligence.

                  That aside, there are many, many societies around the world that have really not found these rights to be so self evident. I'd say that the vast majority of people in the world do not live with those rights and, in fact, many of them may not be able to fathom why we would want all of them. A couple of them, sure, but all of them?

                  So I would argue that these "self evident" rights are not really self evident at all. There are other rights acknowledged elsewhere that we don't have, and there are rights we cherish that others may perceive no need of. I do not think the US rights model is perfect, or for that matter perfectly inclusive. And in that case it doesn't matter where they came from, god or biology or out of a group of rebellious, stubborn intellectuals following along with the popular philosophy among other intellectuals at the time.

                  You see, sir, your logic is sound, but logic is a process, nothing more. When you apply logic to faulty premises you end up with faulty results. What you say is is not what I believe really is just because you say it is.
          • Re:This must change (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday March 23, 2007 @12:33PM (#18460123) Journal

            Indeed. There may be a moral responsibility to disobey the unconstitutional law, but there is at least technically a legal responsibility to obey it
            Depends on your philosophical roots. The Catholic Church, for example, explicitly stated that the moral responsibility to obey one's superiors supercedes other moral responsibilities. This was in the 4th century CE (IIRC, may have been the 5th century), but has so pervaded Western thought that it remains a huge problem today.

            This is a major reason why a lot of fundamentalist Christians continue to support the President -- it's cultural, even if they are not fully aware of it. Europe was forced to face this problem and try to find a solution in the 1940s and 50s; this remains a large area of psychological study even today. In the US, we touched on the subject during and after Vietnam, but culturally it still remains a problem.

            There are a couple of books that go into it in depth, one is Conservatives Without Conscience [amazon.com] light-ish read but very enlightening -- written by a former Nixon staffer, John W. Dean. Dean's book discusses more than this topic, but it's the foundation of his theory that the conservative movement has been taken over by people without an innate moral compass.

            The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason [amazon.com] -- the other, by Charles Freeman, is much drier, but really, in detail, explains the process by which the western culture became this way, with a focus on the church -- as well as the factors that led to these decisions being made. Not surprisingly, most of them came from a desire for security, an attempt to solidify power, or an attempt to destroy a rival.

            I'm not saying that we don't have a moral responsibility to do the right thing even when ordered not to by our superiors (be they government, church, workplace, etc), I'm just saying that understanding the cultural reasons for people acting this way is the first step to rectifying the problem.
            • by ifdef (450739) on Friday March 23, 2007 @01:46PM (#18461227)
              I don't know about the 4th century, but the current Catholic teaching that I was taught in a course on Christian ethics is that the duty to obey one's conscience is a higher duty than that of obeying orders.

              St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274), taught that one has a DUTY to obey one's conscience, even if the conscience contradicts the law, and EVEN IF the conscience is in fact objectively wrong. Of course, one also has a duty to inform oneself as best one can, so that one's conscience will not lead one astray.

              If one disobeys the law in order to follow one's conscience, one has to be prepared for the practical consequences of this, which may include prison or worse. Nevertheless, one has a DUTY to do so.
          • Re:This must change (Score:5, Interesting)

            by einhverfr (238914) <chris...travers@@@gmail...com> on Friday March 23, 2007 @02:32PM (#18462047) Homepage Journal
            I am a former Quaker and currently a Norse Pagan. This is one area where both my past religious tradition and my current one are in complete agreement (though the viewpoint may be different). Although I speak from the perspective of a Norse Pagan here, it could be rewritten to be a Quaker view as well.

            I believe that principle and troth to principle are more important than troth to other people. There are times and places to stand up for what is right, regardless of family encumbrances. In the end the only think that matters is how we have lived our lives, and it is better to be heroic and lose than conform to that which is unjust.

            If I were to decide to fight something like this, it would be dangerous for my son and my wife. But I think that it is better to inspire people (including and especially my son) with deeds well done than to sacrifice those for the sake of comfort and apparent security. In the end, I have to trust that others around me who would see actions as noble would make sure my immediate family was taken care of.

            We, like trees, grow not only into the light but into the dark as well. Both are necessary, and both in balance make us strong.
        • by russotto (537200) on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:15AM (#18458067) Journal
          Exactly zero of those 140,000 have violated one of those administrative gag orders, here in the land of the free and the home of brave. Either the government has already gotten so terrible that to defy it is mere foolishness, or the people have gotten the government we deserve.
        • by theonetruekeebler (60888) on Friday March 23, 2007 @11:07AM (#18458865) Homepage Journal

          [M]any of those 140,000 also have other moral responsibilities, such as providing for their children.
          How about their moral responsibility to provide their children a future where there isn't a secret police, with zero accountability, conducting secret investigations of their masters' political enemies?

          There's an axiom that any law that can be abused will be abused. The current administration demonstrates this with jaw-dropping alacrity. Look at the U.S. Attorney firings. Look at the 30,000 investigations the FBI has admitted to conducting illegally. All done under the umbrella of laws designed to fight terrorism. Look at how they've repealed the Posse Comitatus Act, and wait until the goddamned Army is deployed in your neighborhood, because wouldn't you know it? some guy down the street from you smoked pot once, and the war on drugs is a national emergency. Or maybe it wasn't pot. Maybe he's using peer-to-peer to tell the world about other government abuses.

          That ain't the country I want my children growing up in, and it's here. Now.

        • Re:This must change (Score:5, Interesting)

          by element-o.p. (939033) on Friday March 23, 2007 @12:59PM (#18460465) Homepage
          I'm not judging anyone who follows the law and obeys a National Security Letter--I'm not sure what I would do if I were on the receiving end of one--but did Martin Luther King, Jr. have children for whom he needed to provide? How about George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Paul Revere, and the rest of the "Founding Fathers"? Did Mahatma Ghandi? I honestly don't know about most of these individuals but I'm pretty sure MLK did. And as I recall, Thomas Jefferson said something to the effect of "we study war so that our children may study math and science and so that their children may study music and art" which at least implies that he may have had children.

          Part of providing for our children is providing for their freedom and their future. I would die inside if I elected to back down in the face of a tough choice and some day in the future, my daughter suffers because I didn't make a stand when I had a chance.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nahdude812 (88157) *
        I understand your point and agree with its core meaning.

        I'd like to point out though that most likely the vast majority of these letters were served to corporations, and probably 90% of them hit the same dozen or so corporations (big ones specializing in communications like Verizon & AT&T). You don't get to be a big corporation like these by standing on principle.
        • by truthsearch (249536) on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:38AM (#18458413) Homepage Journal
          The corporation didn't read the letter, a human did. The corporation can't perform any actions to comply or resist, only a human can. Corporations are just collections of people. Those people can and should stand up for what they believe in, even if it means losing their job.

          And before anyone pounces and says I wouldn't be willing to lose my own job for what I believe in, I already have.
          • by finkployd (12902) on Friday March 23, 2007 @11:05AM (#18458833) Homepage
            Many would be willing to sacrifice their jobs and possibly freedom to stand up to a corrupt government, but how many are willing to financially devastate their families to do so? It always amuses me when (and I am not saying this is you) single college students look with distain at a middle aged homeowner with 3 kids who is not willing to chuck it all down the drain to stand up to a law he does not agree with.

            It is simple risk analysis, when people see government terrorizing their own citizens and think "that could happen to me", that is when they stand up, damn the consequences. That is basically how it happens historically, but right now the abuse is not widespread (or public) enough to enrage the average citizen. In fact, I know more people thinking that a citizen revolt would be more likely triggered by the widespread (and blatantly public) abuse of eminent domain than patriot act abuses.

            Finkployd
      • It's a Fear (Score:5, Insightful)

        by eldavojohn (898314) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .nhojovadle.> on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:52AM (#18457777) Journal

        Also remember that in our system the only way to challenge a law as unconstitutional is to break it.
        And I'm certain that the people who you're asking to break these laws are afraid that they'll be the only one and end up in jail or worse.

        We should have 140,000 people in jail right now for talking about them...
        I would wager that the FBI sent out initial "test letters" about clients to companies that--if necessary--they knew they could get a court order to acquire anyways. Once the company complied, the FBI probably evaluated the resistance said company gave. A low resistance would indicate that at anytime, the FBI could keep playing the same card (probably on the same individual) and continually receive information whether a court order would back them up in the end or not. I'm guessing the number of letters does not reflect the number of individuals who partook in the release of information.

        As perverse as it may sound, I would also wager that there are individuals out there who would reply to these letters instantly and with a sense of pride for serving their country. I am very interested if the letters convey this attitude about this request for information. If they do, in fact, inform the individual that this is a matter of national security & that they will be bringing justice to the enemies of the United States, then I hope they are eventually published so we can all have a good laugh and that they might serve as a reminder for victims of future schemes.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by terraformer (617565)

          I would wager that the FBI sent out initial "test letters" about clients to companies that--if necessary--they knew they could get a court order to acquire anyways. Once the company complied, the FBI probably evaluated the resistance said company gave. A low resistance would indicate that at anytime, the FBI could keep playing the same card (probably on the same individual) and continually receive information whether a court order would back them up in the end or not.

          Dude, you are giving them way too muc

        • Re:It's a Fear (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:33AM (#18458351) Journal
          Ephasis mine:

          If they do, in fact, inform the individual that this is a matter of national security & that they will be bringing justice to the enemies of the United States, then I hope they are eventually published so we can all have a good laugh

          I think you misspelled "cry".

          But seriously,

          and that they might serve as a reminder for victims of future schemes.

          Serve as a reminder? I don't think this is a minor problem, this is a strong signal of the US's descent into a fascist state. Leaning on patriotism and fear of reprisal to get people to report on their neighbors (we're all neighbors in the digital era)? Sounds familiar.

          I really don't want to Godwin the thread, but in this case there is a parallel that is best not ignored.
      • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman @ g m a i l . c om> on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:53AM (#18457811) Homepage Journal

        Also remember that in our system the only way to challenge a law as unconstitutional is to break it.

        "Four boxes to be used in defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury, ammo - use in that order." --Ed Howdershelt

        This fellow did the right thing. He challenged it in court first. And he did get somewhere, but he's still under a gag order that he has not been able to change. Only then did he resort to breaking the law in order to challenge it.

        Breaking the law comes with a lot of consequences, so choose your battles carefully. Only do it when you are sure you're getting the best bang for your buck. Otherwise you'll just waste away your ability to fight.
      • by polar red (215081) on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:10AM (#18458011)

        We should have 140,000 people in jail right now for talking about them,
        Provided They don't end up as enemy combatants. Oh you say they aren't enemy combatants ? How are you going to prove that ? You're not allowed a trial ! Yeah, vote republican !

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by troll -1 (956834)
        Also remember that in our system the only way to challenge a law as unconstitutional is to break it.

        I don't think that's true. Four librarians from Connecticut challenged the law [nytimes.com] without breaking it and won, after which the FBI withdrew the SNL.

        What I don't understand is why the FBI doesn't get a good old fashion search warrent signed by a judge in accordance with the fourth amendment. I always thought having a judge sign off on these things was part of the checks and balances designed to prevent abus
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OddThinking (1078509)

      Don't get me wrong: I agree, we should contact our representatives and make some noise. But...

      To be honest, must people are not going to care until it happens to them. My parents (and I think most people) may not agree with it, but rather than disagree with it, they would rather just avoid thinking about it.

      Unless we get some honest politicians (I love throwing oxymorons into my posts), the situation is probably going to take a long time to correct. But, if no one does anything, it will never be co

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AKAImBatman (238306) *

        Unless we get some honest politicians (I love throwing oxymorons into my posts), the situation is probably going to take a long time to correct.

        I think you overestimate the corruption of the political system. Politicians may often be underhanded, sneaky, and less than honorable (despite the title bestowed on them), but that doesn't mean that they're all of one mind on issues. For right now they are still duly elected and answerable to the public. If you draw their attention to important matters like this, m

        • Re:This must change (Score:4, Interesting)

          by nutrock69 (446385) on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:29AM (#18458291)

          For right now they are still duly elected and answerable to the public.
          When was the last time a politician of the USA asked the public what it wanted? I don't remember hearing of any time during this century...

          Politicians used to poll their constituents on a regular basis to find out what we want our government to do. Now they sit back and wait for the lobbyists (legal bribers) to come tell them what the rich corporations want them to do - often against the wishes of their constituents. Their political party comes to them telling them how the "Party Line" will be voting in today's session and informing them of the consequences if they violate solidarity. And since 2000 the political back-biting from above paints them as heretics/terrorists for not supporting our new Führer.

          I've said it before and I'll say it again - When we give up our freedoms to fight for them, we've already lost.
          • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman @ g m a i l . c om> on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:45AM (#18458521) Homepage Journal

            I've said it before and I'll say it again - When we give up our freedoms to fight for them, we've already lost.

            And when we've given up our will to fight for our freedoms, we have also lost them.

            THINK for a moment, man! The revolutionists who made this country possible petitioned both King and Parliment first. They made every effort to bring the situation back under control before they pulled out their weapons and opened fire. Had they done nothing but shout a big 'ole "FUCK YOU" to the British government, it is likely that they would not have gotten the support necessary to fight the war. In fact, it's just as likely that the American people would have seen the revolutionaries as dangerous men to be around, and never would have ratified the Lee Resolution - the official act of separation from Britain.

            When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

            [...]

            In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

            [...]

            Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

            Soap, ballot, jury, ammo. Get the order right.
            • by i.r.id10t (595143) on Friday March 23, 2007 @11:08AM (#18458871)
              BOSTON - National guard units seeking to confiscate a cache of recently banned assault weapons were ambushed on April 19th by elements of a para-military extremist faction. Military and law enforcement sources estimate that 72 were killed and more than 200 injured before government forces were compelled to withdraw.

              Speaking after the clash Massachusetts Governor Thomas Gage declared that the extremist faction, which was made up of local citizens, has links to the radical right-wing tax protest movement. Gage blamed the extremists for recent incidents of vandalism directed against internal revenue offices. The governor, who described the group's organizers as "criminals," issued an executive order authorizing the summary arrest of any individual who has interfered with the government's efforts to secure law and order. The military raid on the extremist arsenal followed wide-spread refusal by the local citizenry to turn over recently outlawed assault weapons.

              Gage issued a ban on military-style assault weapons and ammunition earlier in the week. This decision followed a meeting in early this month between government and military leaders at which the governor authorized the forcible confiscation of illegal arms.

              One government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, pointed out that "none of these people would have been killed had the extremists obeyed the law and turned over their weapons voluntarily." Government troops initially succeeded in confiscating a large supply of outlawed weapons and ammunition. However, troops attempting to seize arms and ammunition in Lexington met with resistance from heavily-armed extremists who had been tipped off regarding the government's plans. During a tense standoff in Lexington's town park, National Guard Colonel Francis Smith, commander of the government operation, ordered the armed group to surrender and return to their homes. The impasse was broken by a single shot, which was reportedly fired by one of the right-wing extremists. Eight civilians were killed in the ensuing exchange. Ironically, the local citizenry blamed government forces rather than the extremists for the civilian deaths. Before order could be restored,
              armed citizens from surrounding areas had descended upon the guard units. Colonel Smith, finding his forces overmatched by the armed mob, ordered a retreat. Governor Gage has called upon citizens to support the state/national joint task force in its effort to restore law and order. The governor also demanded the surrender of those responsible for planning and leading the attack against the government troops. Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and John Hancock, who have been identified as "ringleaders" of the extremist faction, remain at large.

              April 20, 1775
        • by Applekid (993327) on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:35AM (#18458391)
          "For right now they are still duly elected and answerable to the public. If you draw their attention to important matters like this, most of them will take action."

          IF politically expedient. Look at the nonsense with all the "think of the children" stuff being tossed about. Being the lawmaker that's going above and beyond the mere protection of children is good press and good voteablility. You're, um, not going to be the one AGAINST children, are you?

          Even when it's the right thing to do and there is outcry about it, politicians get their staff to conduct some polls and figure out the path of least potential political damage to themselves or their buddies and that's what they do.

          No doubt a lot of these guys start out thinking they're going to make the world a different place. When they get high enough, they get hooked. Power is a drug. Congressional members get many perks and privilages. Even if they maintain a good heart and want to change things for the better, seniority is everything and if they don't continually get elected then they don't have any pull.

          "If we fail to take action on this issue . . . the Congress . . . will be replaced with a perfect congress."

          Eventually? Like an entropy of good? What about the old timers that, at this point, are probably never going to be "dethroned?" The likes of Ted Kennedy, Ted Stevens, Patrick Leahy, Orrin Hatch? Not exactly like walking down a hallway fo pleasant dreams. What about every time Mickey Mouse is on the edge of getting put into the public domain congress, regardless of which party is in power, always retroactively extends the privilage of copyright? I mean. Come. On.

          Maybe if the legislative branch had term limits we might be able to get some new blood in there more regularly, maybe even make it more difficult (read: prohibitively expensive) for special interests and corps to buy lifer politicians.

          (That felt good to get out. Not trying to troll or anything.)
    • by Xiph (723935)
      The catch is, he's not allowed to do this.

      That's a very real problem.
      If his case fails, it's a good question if raising the case itself constitutes a breach.
      I highly recommend reading the above post, and doing as it says, even if you haven't had this problem, because once you get it, you might not be able to.

      I have to compare this to the secret police of Eastern Germany during the cold war, even though it seems far fetched, and i certainly don't hope the FBI act like this, they do have the power to outdo it
    • In the "terms of use" or "privacy" section of your web site place a very simple note:

      "This company/web site has never been served a national security letter and has never disclosed any information under a national security letter"

      While I am sure that they could find a judge to compel you to keep such an announcement up even after you have received such a letter, such a statement can have a powerful viral effect. Also, find those privacy links at the bottom of the page and ask them if they have been ser

  • Just throw it away (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oglueck (235089) on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:36AM (#18457571) Homepage
    If the FBI denies its existance and you are not to speak about it, you can just silently throw it in the bin and forget about it, right? I mean they can't possibly sue you over something that doesn't even legally exist. Okay, maybe in a country like your they can.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:41AM (#18457619)
      Good luck. Since the issue concerns national security, you will get detained as an enemy combatant, and thrown into jail with no access to a lawyer, let alone a judge.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by aicrules (819392)
        Yeah...parent is NOT informative. Parent is disinformative. The enemy combatant classification (nor the non-enemy combatant which I think you probably meant) cannot be applied in this way. It's posts like these that make the "by line" so accurate.
        • by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:18AM (#18458129)
          The enemy combatant classification (nor the non-enemy combatant which I think you probably meant) cannot be applied in this way.

          And if it were to be, what are your options, noble grasshopper?
        • by Jtheletter (686279) on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:29AM (#18458303)
          The President can declare anyone an enemy combatant under the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Contrary to what some believe, this is NOT limited to non-citizens. Given how little judicial or other oversight or scrutiny that is able to be placed on the Presidents actions, even if the power were abused by declaring a civilly disobedient citizen an enemy combatant, how many years would they waste away in a secret prison before anyone was even able to find out what exactly happened to them or why?
          • by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday March 23, 2007 @02:25PM (#18461919) Journal
            You are absolutely correct and as an Asussie I would just like to say WE WANT DAVID HICKS BACK. That is all our PM has to say to the US and Hicks is free, many other countries (including the UK) have done so since the supreme court case, but our PM won't do it.

            Australia is often touted as the US's "most loyal ally" and it's probably the reason why Hicks is a genuine political prisoner of the US. Since being captured by the N. Alliance and sold to the US military for a $100 reward he has been in gitmo for 5+yrs, mainly in a 23 hr/day isolation cell, yet he has broken no Australian or US laws, he has recently been charged retrospectively with a new law about "aiding terrorists".

            It's not all bad though, I do admire his defense lawyer!
  • USA = USSR (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brabo (409689) on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:40AM (#18457599)
    When I was a kid (10 odd years), I remember the Soviet Union; massive check-points at borders, customs officers that gave you a cavity check at will, and a police state that didn't care much for the privacy or rights of it's citizens... Remember KGB (FSB now) and GRU ?? Anyone ??

    That nightmare is now over, and I can freely go to and from Moscow, to visit my grandmother and friends. Or, I can have them board a plane and come to Amsterdam... with almost no delays at the border(s)...

    But hey, those KGB and GRU bastards were hired by... the white house, and their methods are now common practice in the USA and it's 'allies'..

    You yanks didn't win the cold war, you lost... but you kinda don't get it... but I'm sure your children will, and they will look at you for answers.
    • Re:USA = USSR (Score:4, Interesting)

      by 0x0000 (140863) <zerohex AT zerohex DOT com> on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:03AM (#18457907) Homepage

      You yanks didn't win the cold war, you lost...

      Interesting you should say that - it's a point I've been trying to make for some years now - pretty much since the wall came down - We saw actual breadlines under Reagan and Bush I - not something that gets talked about much, but it always struck me that such were scenes straight out of the Cold War era anti-USSR propaganda disseminated in the US public schools...

      but you kinda don't get it... but I'm sure your children will, and they will look at you for answers.

      It's already happening - the answers areen't that difficult yet, since it's all right there in front of them - the hardest part is convincing the younger ones that it was ever any different.

  • Court Order (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rlp (11898) on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:41AM (#18457611)
    IANAL, but without a court order signed by a judge, it's a strongly worded REQUEST.
    • Re:Court Order (Score:5, Informative)

      by jstomel (985001) on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:07AM (#18457953)
      You obviously havn't read the PATRIOT act or the national security survailiance act. They explicitly give the FBI the ability to issue "National Security Letters" which have the force of warrents but don't need to be signed by a judge. You can be arrested for failing to comply, so they are somewhat more than a "request".
      • Re:Court Order (Score:5, Informative)

        by rlp (11898) on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:35AM (#18458377)
        > You can be arrested for failing to comply, so they are somewhat more than a "request".

        Not true. Also under the reauthorization of the act, you can disclose the letter to your attorney (a good idea) to help you decide if you wish to comply. Disclosing the letter to anyone else (especially the subject of the investigation) will get you into serious trouble.
    • Re:Court Order (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:43AM (#18458483)

      IANAL, but without a court order signed by a judge, it's a strongly worded REQUEST.


      It is a strongly worded REQUEST from people with lots of guns, a willingness to use them, and virtual immunity in court after the fact.
  • by axus (991473) on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:41AM (#18457617)
    Do you get put on secret trial in a secret court? Or secret penalties from the IRS? What he should do is look at the info himself, and decide if something is suspicious. If it looks like something illegal going on, help out the FBI, if not then make them get a judge involved, and protect the privacy of his customer in the meantime.
  • by adnonsense (826530) on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:43AM (#18457649) Homepage Journal

    Recently I received CONTENT REMOVED from the --- regarding one of my CONTENT REMOVED. It was delivered personally by two CONTENT REMOVED in a black CONTENT REMOVED and they CONTENT REMOVED terrorist CONTENT REMOVED you're not for us CONTENT REMOVED us.

    Under the terms of the CONTENT REMOVED Act it appears I cannot CONTENT REMOVED or CONTENT REMOVED or even badgers. They said they had installed special CONTENT REMOVED on my CONTENT REMOVED connection and would be watching out for transgressions - even something as innocuous as calling G.W. CONTENT REMOVED failure or librarians CONTENT REMOVED CONTENT REMOVED Harry Potter in Syria. Since contacting my la +++NO CARRIER+++

  • yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thaelon (250687) on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:46AM (#18457687)

    I suspected that the FBI was abusing its power and that the letter sought information to which the FBI was not entitled.
    According to the Fourth Amendment [wikipedia.org] you're right.
    According to the PATRIOT Act [wikipedia.org], you're not.
    • Exactly. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pavon (30274)
      This would be my response.

      In this country, the law exists only as it interpreted by the Judiciary. Every session congress enacts law after law that conflict with one another, and with existing laws. Until precedent is set in court, the people of this country are left to make their best guess as to which seemingly conflicting laws will prevail. It is my firm belief that the specific powers granted to you by PATRIOT act, by which you are making this request, are unconstitutional. Therefore, as a law abiding c
  • Lawyer time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TinBromide (921574) on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:47AM (#18457711)
    I'd hire an attorney and take the letter to him. Its questionable legal practice and a non-approved letter (no judge, no warrant, no due process), is only worth the paper and ink, nothing more.

    They may see your non-cooperation and go through proper channels, but that's what the attorney is hired for. I'd reply that it'd be bad business practice to breach client information, but would happily cooperate with the courts if funneled through proper channels.

    Name, rank, and serial number. All you gotta give.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuantumG (50515)
      Shya, you take that letter to a lawyer and the lawyer will give you the advice: do what it says and tell no-one that you showed me this.

  • by Dr. Manhattan (29720) <[sorceror171] [at] [gmail.com]> on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:48AM (#18457723) Homepage
    "Liberals must stop saying President Bush hasn't asked Americans to sacrifice for the war on terror. On the contrary, he's asked us to sacrifice something enormous. Our civil rights... so when it comes to sacrifice, don't kid yourself. You have given up a lot. You've given up faith in your government's honesty, the goodwill of people overseas, and six-tenths of the Bill of Rights. Here's what you've sacrificed: search and seizure, warrants, self-incrimination, trial by jury, cruel and unusual punishment. Here's what you have left: hand guns, religion, and they can't make you quarter a British soldier. If Prince Harry invades the Inland Empire, he has to bring a tent...

    But, look, George Bush has never been too bright about understanding 'fereigners.' But he does know Americans. He asked this generation to sacrifice the things he knew we would not miss: our privacy and our morality. He let us keep the money. But he made a cynical bet that we wouldn't much care if we became a 'Big Brother' country that has now tortured a lot of random people...

    In conclusion, after 9/11, President Bush told us Osama bin Laden could run but he couldn't hide. But, then he ran and hid. So, Bush went to Plan B: pissing on the Constitution and torturing random people...

    They say evil happens when good men do nothing. Well, the Democrats prove it also happens when mediocre people do nothing."

    Full text here [hbo.com].

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by daigu (111684)
      Having hand guns and rifles is not a trivial thing. These are the tools that can be used to take one's liberty back - when you don't have any other options. It's why there is a 2nd Amendment.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:55AM (#18457831)

    My National Security Letter Gag Order

    Friday, March 23, 2007; Page 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.

  • by ghostlibrary (450718) on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:57AM (#18457855) Homepage Journal
    If one is under a gag order, does one have to lie? From the article, "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 would hope you can use the neutral "I cannot comment." The order does not say "lie about us" but "you can not discuss it." Yes, evasive answers can confirm suspicions in people (why else would they not answer?), but that should still be legit.

    Similarly, meeting with an attorney on a case you can't discuss, just say "I'm meeting with an attorney, can't discuss, sorry."

    Anyone else run into being forced to lie?
  • Here's what you do (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fudgefactor7 (581449) on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:05AM (#18457923)
    Make multiple copies of the NSL, along with your story, set it all up so that in 30 days, if you do nothing, they get mailed out to all the media outlets, faxed out of the country to overseas media (BBC, et. al.) and then you go and hold a public announcement in front of the Capitol and say "Nope, not gonna do it." Utterly refuse to obey a law that is "evil."
     
    The biggest weapon against overbearing government is transparency. If a government cannot withstand scrutiny, they are doing something very wrong. The PATRIOT act is the biggest piece of shit written, and Congress (most of whom never read it) just rolled over. Were they a computer, I'd FDISK them and start over.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:17AM (#18458105)
    According to wikipedia:

    Section 505 ruled unconstitutional

    On September 29, 2004, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero struck down Section 505--which allowed the government to issue "National Security Letters" to obtain sensitive customer records from Internet service providers and other businesses without judicial oversight--as a violation of the First and Fourth Amendment. The court also found the broad gag provision in the law to be an "unconstitutional prior restraint" on free speech, so it was turned down.


    So, why can't this guy talk about it yet? the law has been struck down.
  • Rules (Score:3, Funny)

    by allscan (1030606) on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:25AM (#18458237)
    The first rule of National Security Letters is you will not talk about...ah you get the point.
  • This is exactly the technique district attorneys use when summoning you before a grand jury in a sensitive investigation.

    No judge. No accountability. Gag order. I was under one for 9 months in 1992.

    It's a 'feature' of the system, and if they can't do it this way, the US Attorney will do it for them.

  • by rdmiller3 (29465) on Friday March 23, 2007 @11:38AM (#18459367) Journal

    Every "gag order" is a state-backed command to lie. The "gagged" person is compelled into deceit.

    What makes this really stupid, is the fact that the order implicitely assumes that they can trust the victim to comply, even though the only way the victim can comply is to be untrustworthy.

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday March 23, 2007 @11:49AM (#18459505) Homepage

    We're seeing some good political maneuvering here. With this appearing in the Washington Post, and support from ACLU lawyers, it's quite possible that the plan is to get this guy called to testify before a congressional committee. If he testifies under oath before Congress on this, that overrides the FBI's "gag order".

  • This is democracy? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CrankyOldBastard (945508) on Friday March 23, 2007 @12:04PM (#18459731)
    This from the country that is busy trying to get its own version of "democracy" pushed down the throats of other countries?

    OK, So I'll get modded "Troll" and "Flamebait". But isn't it time you Americans fought back for your democracy, before you lose it all in the name of the "War against Terror"?

  • 3 copies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GrEp (89884) <<crb002> <at> <gmail.com>> on Friday March 23, 2007 @12:39PM (#18460203) Homepage Journal
    I would make 3 copies. Give one to my state's attorney general, and one to each of my senators.

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