Wednesday, September 12, 2007

NSL provision in PATRIOT Act struck down by federal court

By Ryan Paul | Published: September 06, 2007 - 01:10PM CT

The National Security Letter (NSL) provision of the PATRIOT Act was struck down today by federal court judge Victor Marrero. The controversial NSL provision has allowed the FBI to secretly demand access to records held by organizations like libraries and Internet service providers. National Security Letters, which can be used without probable cause or judicial oversight, also impose "gag" restrictions on recipients, forbidding them from disclosing that they have received the letter.

Judge Marrero originally struck down the NSL provision in 2004, when an Internet service provider challenged the constitutionality of the NSL non-disclosure requirements. At the time, Marrero determined that the NSL provision of the PATRIOT Act violated the First and Fourth Amendments and also pointed out that the associated gag orders make it difficult, if not impossible, for recipients to consult legal counsel without fear of punishment. When the government appealed the ruling, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged that the NSL provision was probably unconstitutional but returned the case back to Marrero for a second analysis after Congress altered and renewed the PATRIOT Act. Now that Marrero has reviewed the revised PATRIOT Act, he has determined that the NSL provision is still unconstitutional.

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