Federal Judge Rules NSLs (National Security Letters) Unconstitutional

2013-03-15

Mike Gerwitz

This news is huge and an incredible win for both the EFF and all U.S. citizens. Today, United States District Judge Susan Illston found the National Security Letters' gag provisions unconstitutional[0] and—since the review procedures violate the separation of powers and cannot be separated from the rest of the statute—has consequently ruled the NSLs themselves to be unconstitutional[1]:

In today's ruling, the court held that the gag order provisions of the statute violate the First Amendment and that the review procedures violate separation of powers. Because those provisions were not separable from the rest of the statute, the court declared the entire statute unconstitutional.[1]
This is an exciting decision; let's see where it takes us.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ordered the government to stop issuing so-called NSLs across the board, in a stunning defeat for the Obama administration’s surveillance practices. She also ordered the government to cease enforcing the gag provision in any other cases. However, she stayed her order for 90 days to give the government a chance to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.[0]
The issues surrounding NSLs[2] were highlighted just last week when Google released numbers relating to the orders that it received[3].

[0] http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/03/nsl-found-unconstitutional/

[1] https://www.eff.org/press/releases/national-security-letters-are-unconstitutional-federal-judge-rules

[2] https://www.eff.org/issues/national-security-letters

[3] http://mikegerwitz.com/2013/03/Google-Says-the-FBI-Is-Secretly-Spying-on-Some-of-Its-Customers