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Court Nixes National Security Letter Gag Provision 128

2phar sends news that on Monday a federal appeals court ruled unconstitutional the gag provision of the Patriot Act's National Security Letters. Until the ruling, recipients of NSLs were legally forbidden from speaking out. "The appeals court invalidated parts of the statute that wrongly placed the burden on NSL recipients to initiate judicial review of gag orders, holding that the government has the burden to go to court and justify silencing NSL recipients. The appeals court also invalidated parts of the statute that narrowly limited judicial review of the gag orders — provisions that required the courts to treat the government's claims about the need for secrecy as conclusive and required the courts to defer entirely to the executive branch." Update: 12/16 22:26 GMT by KD : Julian Sanchez, Washington Editor for Ars Technica, sent this cautionary note: "Both the item on yesterday's National Security Letter ruling and the RawStory article to which it links are somewhat misleading. It remains the case that ISPs served with an NSL are forbidden from speaking out; the difference is that under the ruling it will be somewhat easier for the ISPs to challenge that gag order, and the government will have to do a little bit more to persuade a court to maintain the gag when it is challenged. But despite what the ACLU's press releases imply, this is really not a 'victory' for them, or at least only a very minor one. Relative to the decision the government was appealing, it would make at least as much sense to call it a victory for the government. The lower court had struck down the NSL provisions of the PATRIOT Act entirely. This ruling left both the NSL statute and the gag order in place, but made oversight slightly stricter. If you look back at the hearings from this summer, you'll see that most of the new ruling involves the court making all the minor adjustments that the government had urged them to make, and which the ACLU had urged them to reject as inadequate."

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