Snitches Anonymous -- Welcome to the Police State

"My National Security Letter Gag Order

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. . . .

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. . . .

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."

That’s some frightening shit sppok. Thanks for writing this.


spook -
Did this happen to you? Are you referring to yourself in the post?
What eventually happened to you and your company?

If it was and I said so I’d be a criminal in brave, new America.

ACLU & examples of suppressed speech:

"The gag provision continues to prevent the ACLU from disclosing to the public a vast amount of innocuous, non-sensitive information about our constitutional challenge to the NSL power. For example, the government has demanded that the ACLU redact a sentence that described its anonymous client’s business as “provid[ing] clients with the ability to access the Internet.” The government even insisted that the ACLU black out a direct quote from a Supreme Court case in our brief. (“The danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts to act under so vague a concept as the power to protect ‘domestic security.’ Given the difficulty of defining the domestic security interest, the danger of abuse in acting to protect that interest becomes apparent.”)

The ACLU continues to contest the government’s redactions in the case. The documents below highlight speech that the government suppressed in the case, but the Court later allowed us to disclose. Here is what the government didn’t want you to see.


spook -
So…was te ACLU able to help you with these problems?

Birds of a feather:

"lettre de cachet:

formerly in French law, private, sealed document, issued as a communication from the king. Such a letter could order imprisonment or exile for an individual without recourse to courts of law. Of very early origin, the lettre de cachet came into common use in the 17th cent. as an instrument of the new monarchy. Although its actual use was restrained, the issuance to local officials of lettres de cachet with the space for the name left blank inspired great fear. The occasional invocation of them against leaders of opinion, including Voltaire, became a symbol of arbitrary royal power and tyranny. They were abolished by the Constituent Assembly in the French Revolution. Napoleon I briefly renewed use of the lettres de cachet."

well, you get what you vote for. (maybe not you personally, spook, and notwithstanding certain allegations of vote rigging, electoral roll manipulation and the florida debacle).

next time, get it right, OK? that kind of shit is catching.

Ordinary customers flagged as terrorists

[quote]Private businesses such as rental and mortgage companies and car dealers are checking the names of customers against a list of suspected terrorists and drug traffickers made publicly available by the Treasury Department, sometimes denying services to ordinary people whose names are similar to those on the list.

The Office of Foreign Asset Control’s list of “specially designated nationals” has long been used by banks and other financial institutions to block financial transactions of drug dealers and other criminals. But an executive order issued by President Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has expanded the list and its consequences in unforeseen ways. Businesses have used it to screen applicants for home and car loans, apartments and even exercise equipment, according to interviews and a report by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay area to be issued today.

“The way in which the list is being used goes far beyond contexts in which it has a link to national security,” said Shirin Sinnar, the report’s author. “The government is effectively conscripting private businesses into the war on terrorism but doing so without making sure that businesses don’t trample on individual rights.”[/quote]

Use of “similar” names to blacklist people? Sounds a lot like what the Republicans did with so-called “felon lists” in 2000 and 2004 to keep African Americans with clean records from voting.