A California judge has ruled National Security Letters (NSL) are unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The use of National Security Letters has allowed the FBI to spy on U.S. citizens in silence for years.
In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston also struck down gag orders imposed on Internet and telephone companies. The letters request private information about the company’s subscribers without a court warrant in the name of counter terrorism efforts.
“This pervasive use of nondisclosure orders, coupled with the government’s failure to demonstrate that a blanket prohibition on recipients’ ability to disclose the mere fact of receipt of an NSL is necessary to serve the compelling need of national security, creates too large a danger that speech is being unnecessarily restricted,” Illston wrote.
Unlike the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which also found the statute unconstitutional in 2008, she was not willing to compromise citizen’s individual liberties by allowing the law to be rewritten. She struck the entire statute down.
The government has 90 days to appeal the ruling, which will be passed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Ashley Wright is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.