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Category Archives: Free Speech

Federal Court Invalidates 11-Year-old FBI gag order on National Security Letter recipient Nicholas Merrill

Calyx Institute: “A federal district court has ordered the FBI to lift an eleven-year- old gag order imposed on Nicholas Merrill [document is redacted] forbidding him from speaking about a National Security Letter (“NSL”) that the FBI served on him in 2004. The ruling marks the first time that an NSL gag order has been lifted in full since the PATRIOT Act vastly expanded the scope of the FBI’s NSL authority in 2001. Mr. Merrill, the executive director of the Calyx Institute, is represented by law students and supervising attorneys of the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, a program of Yale Law School’s Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression and Information Society Project. For more than a decade, the government has refused to allow Mr. Merrill and other NSL recipients to tell the public just how broadly the FBI has interpreted its authority to surveil individuals’ digital lives in secret using NSLs. Tens of thousands of NSLs are issued by FBI officers every year without a warrant or judicial oversight of any kind. The letters demand disclosure of user information and are almost always accompanied by complete gag orders. Today’s decision will finally allow Mr. Merrill to speak about all aspects of the NSL and, specifically, to inform the public about the categories of personal information that the FBI believes it can obtain using an NSL…U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero’s decision invalidated the gag order in full, finding no “good reason” to prevent Merrill from speaking about any aspect of the NSL, particularly an attachment to the NSL that lists the specific types of “electronic communication transactional records” (“ECTR”) that the FBI believed it was authorized to demand. The FBI has long refused to clarify what kinds of information it sweeps up under the rubric of ECTR, a phrase that appears in the NSL statute but is not publicly defined anywhere…Merrill first challenged the NSL statute in 2004 in a landmark ACLU lawsuit that resulted in significant changes to the law but ended in 2010 with much of the gag order still intact…”

CRS – National Security Letters in Foreign Intelligence Investigations

National Security Letters in Foreign Intelligence Investigations: A Glimpse at the Legal Background, Charles Doyle, Senior Specialist in American Public Law. July 31, 2015. “Five federal statutes authorize intelligence officials to request certain business record information in connection with national security investigations. The authority to issue these national security letters (NSLs) is comparable to theContinue Reading

DOJ Seeks to Expand Ability to Hack Computers of Suspects

arstechnica – Feds want an expanded ability to hack criminal suspects’ computers – Proposed rules to let one judge authorize “remote access” essentially anywhere. “The United States Department of Justice wants to broaden its ability to hack criminal suspects’ computers, according to a new legal proposal that was first published by The Wall Street Journal onContinue Reading

NSA surveillance: how librarians have been on the front line to protect privacy

Dan Roberts – The Guardian UK – “In the hours before US senators voted to take on the might of the National Security Agency this week, their inboxes were deluged with more than 2,200 supportive emails from a most unlikely group of revolutionaries: America’s librarians. Their contribution to the passage of the USA Freedom ActContinue Reading Reaches 50 Canaries

EFF – “We’re excited to announce that Canarywatch has added its 50th canary: First Look Media, the parent company for The Intercept—the news site created by journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill.EFF-  “Warrant canary” is a colloquial term for a regularly published statement that an internet service provider (ISP) has not received legalContinue Reading

US DOJ IG Report – Review of the FBI’s Use of Section 215 Orders

FBI’s Use of Section 215 Orders: Assessment of Progress in Implementing Recommendations and Examination of Use in 2007 through 2009, Oversight and Review Division Report 15-05. May 2015. Redacted. “The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) announced today the release of a public version of its most recent report examining theContinue Reading

Du-Vote: Remote Electronic Voting with Untrusted Computers

Du-Vote: Remote Electronic Voting with Untrusted Computers. Gurchetan S. Grewal, School of Computer Science, University of Birmingham, UK;  Mark D. Ryan, School of Computer Science, University of Birmingham, UK; Liqun Chen, HP Laboratories, Bristol, UK; Michael R. Clarkson, Department of Computer Science, Cornell University, US. [via ReadWrite] “Abstract —Du-Vote is a new remote electronic votingContinue Reading

Reddit Now Sharing Notices with Chilling Effects

Chilling Effects Team on May 13, 2015 [Chilling Effects is a project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.] “We at Chilling Effects are thrilled to share Reddit’s announcement that the site has begun sharing takedown notices with us! Following on the heels of the release of its first transparency report earlier this year,Continue Reading

UN – Universal Periodic Review – United States

“The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the humanContinue Reading

DHS Defends Government Secrecy in “Internet Kill Switch” Case

EPIC – “The Department of Homeland Security has filed a brief in response to EPIC’s petition for rehearing in the “Internet Kill Switch” case. EPIC is seeking the release of the public policy that allows the government to suspend cell phone service. The D.C. Circuit previously ruled that DHS may withhold the policy. EPIC pursuedContinue Reading

New State of America’s Libraries Report finds shift in role of U.S. libraries

ALA News: “According to The State of America’s Libraries Report released today by the American Library Association (ALA), academic, public and school libraries are experiencing a shift in how they are perceived by their communities and society. No longer just places for books, libraries of all types are viewed as anchors, centers for academic lifeContinue Reading

A Deep Dive Into Party Affiliation

Pew Report – “Democrats hold advantages in party identification among blacks, Asians, Hispanics, well-educated adults and Millennials. Republicans have leads among whites – particularly white men, those with less education and evangelical Protestants – as well as members of the Silent Generation. A new analysis of long-term trends in party affiliation among the public providesContinue Reading