Federal judge rules Patriot Act national security letter gag orders unconstitutional

[JURIST] Issuing National Security Letters (NSLs) [CRS backgrounder, PDF; FBI backgrounder] demanding private information and imposing gag orders on recipients under the reauthorized and revised USA Patriot Act [JURIST news archive] is unconstitutional without judicial review, US District Judge Victor Marrero of the Southern District of New York ruled [opinion, PDF; ACLU press release] Thursday. In September 2004, a federal judge struck down [PDF text] as unreasonable search and seizure the NSL gag order provision in the original version of the act rushed through Congress after 9/11. The provision was amended in the March 2006 renewal of the Patriot Act [JURIST report]. In Thursday's ruling, Marrero said that allowing the FBI to issue NSLs without seeking prior court approval from a judge or grand jury violated several constitutional principles including separation of powers and First Amendment rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] brought the lawsuit [ACLU materials] on behalf of an anonymous Internet service provider that received an NSL. Lawyers representing the ACLU argued before the federal court [JURIST report] in August that NSLs authorized under the Patriot Act are unconstitutional because they act as a gag order without any judicial check [press release]. AP has more.

 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.