This is interesting. A judge has struck down one of the provisions of the Patriot Act, and a good thing it was for this provision just might have endangered my sharp tongue:
The ACLU, which brought this lawsuit, explains that before the Patriot Act, a 1986 law allowed the FBI to issue these National Security Letters "only where it had reason to believe that the subject of the letter was a foreign agent." Section 505 of the Patriot Act, however, removed the individualized suspicion requirement and authorizes the FBI to use National Security Letters to obtain information about groups or individuals not suspected of any wrongdoing.(Bolds mine)
"The FBI need only certify—without court review—that the records are 'relevant' to an intelligence or terrorism investigation." (Emphasis added.)
Who decides what "relevant" means? The FBI, all by itself. That's why its headquarters are still named after J. Edgar Hoover. You can trust the FBI.
Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer for the ACLU involved in this case, told me both why the National Security Letters are so dangerous, and what the effect of Judge Marrero's ruling will be—if it is upheld by the appellate courts all the way up.
"The provision we challenged [that the judge struck down]," says Jaffer, "allows the FBI to issue NSLs against 'wire or electronic service communication providers.' Telephone companies and Internet service providers [are included.]" As Judge Marrero noted, the FBI could also use an NSL "to discern the identity of someone whose anonymous web log, or 'blog,' is critical of the Government."
A little scary, isn't it? Let's see if the provision remains struck down now that we are going to have a new Attorney General who loves the Patriot Act.
Link via Kos.