FBI’s Spy Tool Details Exposed After Gag Order Is Lifted

FBI’s Spy Tool Details Exposed After Gag Order Is Lifted

Following an 11-year battle, Nicholas Merrill finally gets to publicly talk about the FBI’s National Security Letter, which demanded he hand over a wide swath of private information about one of his ISP customers.

Nicholas Merrill, founder of a small ISP, disclosed publicly on Monday how broadly the FBI has secretly issued National Security Letters (NSLs) that allow the collecting of data about US citizens without a warrant or judicial oversight.

Merrill’s disclosure — which follows an 11-year legal battle — is made even more chilling when one considers that an NSL almost always comes with a built-in gag order. This order prevents the recipient from disclosing the letter to its target, or to the public.

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That unrestrained gagging was central to the decision by a federal district court to invalidate the gag order in full.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero on Aug. 28 found that “the non-disclosure requirement enforced against him [Merrill] was overly broad and could not be supported by a ‘good reason.’ ”

There was a stay on the order for 90 days to allow for an appeal. Since there was none, as of this week, Merrill is free to speak about the case.

He told Reuters that Judge Marrero’s ruling is significant “because the public deserves to know how the government is gathering information without warrants on Americans who are not even suspected of a crime.”

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