Electronic Frontier Foundation Sues FBI Over National Security Letter Gag Orders

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed a Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in order to uncover documents confirming whether or not the FBI has been complying with US law regarding the use of gag orders in association with National Security Letters (NSL), which legally forbids people, persons or companies from publicly disclosing they are under investigation by the FBI.

In 2015, after a separate FOIA Lawsuit filed against the FBI, a court officially ruled that these types of gag orders were  unconstitutional and subsequently ordered the FBI to significantly reduce their use of them in the future. This most recent lawsuit, filed in a San Fransisco court room on June 7th, 2017 will attempt to determine if the FBI has or has not complied with US law since their lose in court, by requiring the FBI disclose all their records regarding the use of NSL’s dating back to the court ruling of 2015.

Read The Official Lawsuit Here: https://www.eff.org/document/eff-v-doj-nsl-foia-complaint

Considering that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is quite literally a “law enforcement agency,” you might think that no one follows “the law” any closer than the FBI, but you would be mistaken. In fact, the court decision of 2015 referenced above not withstanding, the FBI has also been found “guilty” of criminal conduct and/or unconstitutional activity by US courts several more times over the course of the last 2 years. You might also remember that the FBI is also currently in court right now, for refusing to comply with the United States Privacy Act, which requires the FBI to disclose all the biometeric data they have collected on US citizens

According to a press release from the Electronic Frontier Foundation dated June 7th 2017, the EFF “sued the Justice Department today to obtain records that can shed light on whether the FBI is complying with a Congressional mandate that it periodically review and lift National Security Letter (NSL) gag orders that are no longer needed.” To put some perspective on why this issue is relevant for US citizens, “the FBI has issued as many as 500,000 NSL’s” on US citizens dating back to 2003.

According to Andrew Crocker, an Attorney representing the EFF in their lawsuit, “Unilateral, indefinite NSL gag orders violate the First Amendment rights of individuals and companies to speak out about government surveillance and inform customers about FBI demands for their data. The bureau’s procedures for lifting gag orders that are no longer needed do not fully address these constitutional concerns.” He goes on to add that the EFF seeks to discover the extent to which the FBI has or has not been complying with their obligations since 2015.

If you want to read more about National Security Letters, you can read a previous article briefly discussing their use in regards the FISC court.