back to article Secretive FBI 'National Security Letters' to ISPs, Telcos halted

The obsessive secrecy provided by the Patriot Act for certain domestic surveillance activities suffered a severe blow yesterday, as a federal judge struck down provisions of the Act that provided for expansive and secretive use of so-called "National Security Letters" (NSL) to obtain phone and email records. NSLs predate the …


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  1. Sir Runcible Spoon

    Judge Victor Marrero

    Must be counted as a freedom fighter of the 21st Century. At least some Americans in authority have the cahoonies to stand up to the terror behind the wheel.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UK has a similar problem

    "The Act as it is now essentially requires judges to take the FBI at its word, which undermines the constitutional principal of the separation of powers between the judicial and executive branches of government."

    In the present month's Reader's Digest there's a story where a judge claimed that he could allow the defendent to present documentary evidence which might have proved his innocence -- because his accuser was HM Customs and Excise, and in the eyes of the law HMCE opinion takes precedence over fact.

    HMCE/FBI -- what's the difference? Neither of them should be above the scrutiny of the judicial system.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "National Security Letters"

    As a loyal American citizen who firmly believes in the power of our constitution, it has been a great embarrassment to me to see the so-called leadership of this country trash everything that has made us great over the years to pursue their mad dreams of revenge against the jihadists.

    I don't understand why it has taken six years for the courts to stand up and say "enough already!"

    George Orwell's nightmare scenario has come true.

  4. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Today's witchcraft

    These days the words 'security' and 'terrorism' are becoming the equivalent of 'witchcraft' in the 17th century.

    They no longer need substantiated evidence, due process, or oversight by those with a job to preserve freedom and justice. They are often used (as in the past) to cover for incompetence or to serve the ends of a few.

  5. kain preacher


    only if he can get rid of the patriot act and them DMCA.

  6. John PM Chappell

    HM C&E

    The situation has changed considerably with regard to Customs, not least because of embarassing court cases where they abused their excessive powers and then found themself having to actually defend them for once (subsequently losing the cases and so setting precedents) but also as they have been merged with the former Inland Revenue (which makes sense when you remember their primary task).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Has had far to much power. The cases of them ripping peoples cars apart, or confiscating them and crushing them mount.

    Also what I don't get in this supposedly free trade area is that I can't go and buy a shit load of fags and booze and bring them into this country. C&E would assume that I had bought them to sell on and confiscate the lot.

    They don't have to prove that I will sell them on, I have to prove I will not.


  8. amanfromMars Silver badge

    @"National Security Letters"

    "As a loyal American citizen who firmly believes in the power of our constitution, it has been a great embarrassment to me to see the so-called leadership of this country trash everything that has made us great over the years to pursue their mad dreams of revenge against the jihadists."

    There is a very real and present danger that their fervour is because of evidence that it is a cynical and perverse, home-grown Jihad by Proxy, to Server Imperial Aggression Inconvenient Truth indeed, in Stealthy Deed, which would render Uncle Sam Washington DC and its dependent States and Spooky Agencies as Pariah State Sponsors of Global Terrorism which would destroy the Dollar and its Leadership Credibility to be so cynically used and abused.

    Tricky Dicky Nixon also had a similar "Waterloo" ...... although on a much lesser scale.

    The story goes that the more improbable something is, the more likely it is to be True and such is the Enigma which hides Devil Deceit?

    Seek to control the News and that makes you Responsible for the Reality presented.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    C&E a big bully problem

    "They don't have to prove that I will sell them on, I have to prove I will not."

    Last number I saw was 10000 vehicles in 2 years. It's a classic bully tactic, instead of having to go to court and convince a judge, they can seize, and shift the burden onto you. If you don't have the free cash or time to challenge in the first month, then you forfeit. Oh, but they have a procedure for challenging it, just so they can send you on a goose chase for that month!


    You by default suffer a penalty (losing your car), and the judicial process is done in reverse. Similar to the police and confiscation of cars.

    Really, take a lawyer with you wherever you go, think of it as a court room that is filled with lawyers, none of them on your side. A lot of vague questions will be asked, but they're deliberately vague so as to lead you to answer incorrectly and suffer the penalty.

    e.g. if asked how often you travel abroad, you need to explain that the foreign journeys are only VERY RARELY booze runs, or he will assume each one is a booze run in making his case.

    When an officer asks you if you have your driving license, he is not asking if you have your driving license [with you], he is asking if he can search (and maybe seize) your car for driving without a license. The answer is 'yes' or 'not with me', never 'no'.

  10. Andy Bright


    Pretty much every abuse of the US constitution and every invasion of privacy in most western countries comes about because stupid people are too spineless to see past the bullshit.

    Terrorism in England is an old one, we tossed away a whole bunch of rights because apparently they got in the way of stopping the IRA.

    In the US however, their politicians have only recently caught the "we scared, so we can do anything we like" bug.

    And the public laps it up. You have the "if you've got nothing to hide" crowd whining that elected representatives of the people should be allowed to strip away in days, hard won rights that took centuries to gain. You've got cowardly idiots that think fighting wars against 13 yr olds in 3rd world countries like Iraq means we should be afraid to go on vacation, and that it's acceptable to ban lethal bottles of water and heinous nail clippers from airplanes.

    These are the same retards that make use their cell phones as the plane is taking off or landing. Apparently they're willing to take a 1 in a million risk to call someone to let them know the plane is flying, but not the 1 in billion risk they'll be killed by some random stroke of terrorism.

    My favourite is spying on Americans. Apparently the same people willing to believe the one-liners about leaving our troops in Iraq stops terrorists from coming to the US, contradictorily believe it's necessary to spy on their neighbours.

    Then we have torture. It's fun to gloat and call yourselves "the greatest country in the world." Make asinine statements about being "leaders of democracy" and spin some bullshit about freedom. But when it comes down to it, principles are the first thing to get chucked out the window if it appears there might be the slightest chance their own skin is in danger.

    Not one politician has stood up and said they would rather face the minute risk of being killed by a terrorist vs fouling the country's reputation. Kidnapping innocent people, transporting them to prisons in the "axis of evil", then allowing them to be tortured are not the actions of "the greatest country in the world".

    So far the only threats I've seen that apparently justify these abuses is a bunch of clowns in England setting fire to cars and trying to transport liquid explosives to airports, and an equally inane group of morons that tried to attack an army base in the US. The "bought a bunch of prepaid cell phones to sell on ebay" horror story was probably the most frightening of them all.

    Meanwhile countries that have left their human rights intact are picking up terrorists by the bucket load.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of course...

    Paul, this is hardly the first example of using fear to control a populace, look at McCarthyism or Hitler blaming all the problems in Germany on the Jews. Witchcraft just seems to be, paradoxically - considering there are so many modern examples, the first that springs to mind.

    What really sickens me is the 'coalition' emphasis on bringing democracy to countries after the US sponsored coups in many South American democratic countries, preferring dictatorships like Pinochet over allowing people a voice. I also get really pissed off that they refuse to admit that the war has gone wrong. Their objective was to find and destroy WMDs, they haven't completed that objective, there are no terrorists in Iraq, just people fighting for their right of freedom to choose who rules their country.

    Terrorism is an excuse used to justify anything that needs to be done to help the US government's economic interests, and increase funding to the defense and intelligence communities, they don't care who gets caught in the crossfire. I give America another year before it implodes.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Of Course

    A year? Try less...

    Bush and his cronies don't give a (^%^%%$@ about us. All they care about is sucking every last drop of oil out of the ground; catering to their industrial business cronies; and until people get their heads out of the sand, this country is going to continue to go the way of the Roman Empire. Those of us who "see" will be the Christians in the arena with the lions, so get those whips and chairs ready...

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