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Daily Archives: September 15, 2015

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…”

Developing Countries Should Brace for Possible Tremors in Upcoming US Federal Reserve Tightening

World Bank: “Developing economies should brace for possible financial market turbulence from the upcoming U.S. monetary policy tightening cycle, according to a new World Bank policy research paper released ahead of this week’s meeting by the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee. The new paper The Coming U.S. Interest Rate Tightening Cycle: Smooth… Continue Reading

Spokeo v. Robins – Brief of Restitution and Remedies Scholars as Amici Curia in Support of Respondent

Laycock, Douglas and Gergen, Mark P. and Rendleman, Doug, Spokeo v. Robins – Brief of Restitution and Remedies Scholars as Amici Curia in Support of Respondent (September 11, 2015). Washington & Lee Legal Studies Paper No. 2015. Available for download at SSRN: “Both consumer protection and restitution may be casualties in a collision with… Continue Reading

Commentary on Open Source Automobiles

Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica – Sep 15, 2015 – “Even if they’ve been longtime partners, the tech sector’s influence on the automotive industry has never been stronger. OEMs in Detroit, Stuttgart, Seoul, and elsewhere are continually transforming cars to meet the demands of consumers now conditioned to smartphones (and their 18-month refresh cycle). Much… Continue Reading

Pew – Libraries at the Crossroads

The public is interested in new services and thinks libraries are important to communities By John B. Horrigan – September 15, 2015. “American libraries are buffeted by cross currents. Citizens believe that libraries are important community institutions and profess interest in libraries offering a range of new program possibilities. Yet, even as the public expresses… Continue Reading

Census Data for Unmarried and Single Americans Week

“Unmarried and Single Americans Week,” an acknowledgment that many unmarried Americans do not identify with the word “single” because they are parents, have partners or are widowed. In this edition of Facts for Features, unmarried people include those who were never married, widowed or divorced, unless otherwise noted. 107 million Number of unmarried people in… Continue Reading

GAO Reports – Affordable Rental Housing, Confidential Informants, Information Technology Reform, U.S. Coast Guard National Pollution Funds Center, Veterans Benefits Management System

Affordable Rental Housing: Assistance Is Provided by Federal, State, and Local Programs, but There Is Incomplete Information on Collective Performance, GAO-15-645: Published: Sep 15, 2015. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 2015. Confidential Informants: Updates to Policy and Additional Guidance Would Improve Oversight by DOJ and DHS Agencies, GAO-15-807: Published: Sep 15, 2015. Publicly Released: Sep 15,… Continue Reading

Harvard Kennedy School – Think Tank Search

“Think Tank Search is a custom Google search of more than 590 think tank websites. For the purposes of this search, think tanks are defined as institutions affiliated with universities, governments, advocacy groups, foundations, non-governmental organizations, and businesses that generate public policy research, analysis, and activity. Inclusion is based upon the relevancy of subject area… Continue Reading