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The Courts Google Government Privacy United States Your Rights Online

Judge Orders Google To Comply With FBI's Warrantless NSL Requests 167

Posted by Soulskill
from the completely-unwarranted dept.
An anonymous reader writes "CNet reports that a U.S. District Court Judge has rejected Google's attempt to fight 19 National Security Letters, which are used by the FBI to gather information on users without a warrant. Quoting: 'The litigation taking place behind closed doors in Illston's courtroom — a closed-to-the-public hearing was held on May 10 — could set new ground rules curbing the FBI's warrantless access to information that Internet and other companies hold on behalf of their users. The FBI issued 192,499 of the demands from 2003 to 2006, and 97 percent of NSLs include a mandatory gag order. It wasn't a complete win for the Justice Department, however: Illston all but invited Google to try again, stressing that the company has only raised broad arguments, not ones "specific to the 19 NSLs at issue." She also reserved judgment on two of the 19 NSLs, saying she wanted the government to "provide further information" prior to making a decision.' This does not affect the Electronic Frontier Foundation's challenge to the constitutionality of the letters in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals."
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Judge Orders Google To Comply With FBI's Warrantless NSL Requests

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 31, 2013 @12:48PM (#43875277)

    Looks like the judge doesn't like these things but can't do much about them, at least not in broad strokes.

    That itself is curious.

    Of course, that these things exist at all is pretty bad, and that the justice department is out of control is even worse.

    Then again, not being an American[tm], little I can do about it.

  • by nanospook (521118) on Friday May 31, 2013 @12:51PM (#43875345)
    If their concerns are valid, why don't they simply get a warrent?
  • WTF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JDG1980 (2438906) on Friday May 31, 2013 @12:58PM (#43875453)

    How can the NSL process possibly be construed as anything other than a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment? It's basic, black-letter law: warrants have to be issued by the judicial branch, not the cops themselves. Are the courts really going to allow the Fourth Amendment to be read out of the Constitution by a meaningless invocation of "national security"?

  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Friday May 31, 2013 @12:59PM (#43875483) Journal

    That's just it. For the most part their concerns aren't valid. The government just wants to go on a witch hunt, and won't tolerate any interference. This is not the the main problem. The main problem is that we won't do anything about it and will reelect the same people who put all of this into place, as we have always done.

  • Re:WTF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Friday May 31, 2013 @01:04PM (#43875573) Homepage

    How can the NSL process possibly be construed as anything other than a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment?

    Executive Orders.

    It's basic, black-letter law: warrants have to be issued by the judicial branch, not the cops themselves

    But these aren't warrants, they're letters. Much more powerful, because they say so.

    Are the courts really going to allow the Fourth Amendment to be read out of the Constitution by a meaningless invocation of "national security"?

    Have you not been paying attention? The 4th amendment has been interpreted so narrowly that if it isn't actually 'paper' and on your person, it's not covered by the Constitution. And the whole border check thing within 100+ miles of any border. And free speech zones. And holding US citizens without trial. And assassinating citizens.

    They've been bypassing the Constitution for almost 12 years now, when and how they see fit.

  • Terrorists Won (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 31, 2013 @01:07PM (#43875611)
    So wait, non elected officials are making secret extra-legal requests that they also say we cant talk about 97% of? And they don't even have enough evidence to get a proper warrant for them? And they are targeting innocent until proven guilty American citizens and possibly political adversaries? And the requests will never re unsealed so we may never know if there was mischief at play or legitimate national security risks? And we have a secret closed door tribunal that not even Google can talk about?
  • by SuperTechnoNerd (964528) on Friday May 31, 2013 @01:14PM (#43875689)
    O here we go again.....
    "reelect the same people who put all of this into place"
    And we elect new people and they do the very same thing, despite what they touted on the campaign trail.. Voting is an illusion and voters are tools..
    Do you think the DOJ is going to give up this level of power because there are new faces in office? Wake up already..
  • Re:Hmm ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 31, 2013 @01:15PM (#43875715)
    Whoa, you're brave even mentioning the constitution. Don't you know that puts you on federal watch lists, one of which has been found out: IRS.
  • Re:WTF (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Friday May 31, 2013 @01:15PM (#43875725) Homepage

    Almost 12 years? Is this some reference to 9/11? Or is that just when you started paying attention?

    No, that's just when they started doing it blatantly and saying it was their right. I have no doubt it was done before, but since then it's been pretty egregious.

  • by intermodal (534361) on Friday May 31, 2013 @01:18PM (#43875769) Homepage Journal

    If there is one thing we need to challenge as a nation, it's the concept of government secrecy. The way it has encroached into areas that it has no business in (i.e. things which aren't like avoiding having Germany know about our radar/sonar/aircraft effective ranges/location of troops during World War II) is highly troubling. Today, even the remote possibility of something being vaguely and obtusely connected to something that might be mildly inconvenient gets turned into a "secret", a capability that has been shown not just to increase abuse of government power and constitution-breaking activity, but to lead to the defense of the indefensible.

  • Re:WTF (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 31, 2013 @01:29PM (#43875891)

    As much as I don't like it, that argument won't stop the FBI SWAT team from busting through your door at 3am.

  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Friday May 31, 2013 @01:33PM (#43875937) Journal

    What are you complaining about? You knew that's what these people do, and yet you keep voting for them... WTF?!

  • Re:Hmm ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday May 31, 2013 @01:39PM (#43876013)

    We're not putting the Constitution aside, we're putting it on display for all to see... in a cellar... without lights or stairs... in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the Leopard".

    But the point is that it's on display for all to see.

  • Re:WTF (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thrich81 (1357561) on Friday May 31, 2013 @01:40PM (#43876023)

    For one example, thousands of Japanese-American citizens interred during WWII can tell you all about bypassing the Constitution. Everyone has their underpants in a wad now bemoaning the recent "shredding of the Constitution". Well it was no better in the past and if anything, the abuses were worse before -- try the Anti_Sedition laws of WWI or Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus. So, yeah, these NSLs are a problem, but no worse than what came before and the Constitution is as strong as it ever has been, for what that is worth. Eternal vigilance is required to keep it that way. The previous abuses were eventually recognized for what they were.

  • Ridiculous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moeinvt (851793) on Friday May 31, 2013 @01:48PM (#43876133)

    NSL's are supposed to be reserved for matters regarding terrorism or homeland security. IIRC, the original PATRIOT Act stated that an NSL must come directly from the AG or FBI director. That's obviously false if there were 190K of them done in a 3 year period. Can any random FBI employee write one of these? That's ridiculous, because one of the fundamental ideas of The Constitution is that cops do NOT get to write their own search warrants.

    The gag order provision is also a clear violation of the Right of free speech. The feds search your customer's data and you can't tell ANYONE, including your colleagues, let alone the affected customers? Under penalty of prosecution? Likewise ridiculous.

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday May 31, 2013 @02:06PM (#43876349)

    It's more like shes saying "I want to strike these down, but if I do it will be a big deal and I don't like the way you submitted your objections. So please resubmit them in the proper way so when I strike this down it'll really stick"

    or at least, that's what I'm hoping for.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 31, 2013 @02:24PM (#43876607)

    And the idea of yours invading other countries to "liberte" them is hilarious to the rest of the world.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 31, 2013 @02:24PM (#43876619)

    It's more like shes saying "I want to strike these down, but if I do it will be a big deal and I don't like the way you submitted your objections. So please resubmit them in the proper way so when I strike this down it'll really stick"

    or at least, that's what I'm hoping for.

    It sounds like Google was trying to nip the entire issue in the bud by arguing against NSLs as a concept ("broad strokes"). The judge has basically said "you can't do that, try pointing out problems with these specific NSLs and I'll block them but that's all you'll get out of me".

  • Re:WTF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clonehappy (655530) on Friday May 31, 2013 @02:27PM (#43876651)

    Exactly. I don't have any rose-colored glasses, nor do I harken back to any halcyon days where the government was just completely honest, free from corruption, and always did what was in the best interest of the people. The United States government has never done that.
     
    However, I do firmly believe that 9/11 had to happen before they could "come out" with what they had been doing for years. Of course, there were terrorist attacks before 9/11, but those were mostly small time acts perpetrated by Americans. The people in charge know that we won't give up our liberties (again, knowingly) because one of our own did something crazy. We know other Americans, and we know that the majority of them aren't up to any no good.
     
    No, to give up our rights, we needed someone who didn't have any constitutional protections. A foreign enemy, but one that could be living right here amongst us. They could be using our email systems our cellular networks, our internet service providers!!!
     
    You see, the terrorists hated our freedoms. And they were using them against us! So of course, the only obvious solution is to get rid of the freedom. With freedom, comes risk. Once the average citizen had become stupid, fat, and lazy enough to care more for their own comfort and perceived safety than being free, it was time to drop the hammer on us. Now that the precedent has been set, any legal victory or victory over the minds of people that can be attained by the minority who treasure their freedom and can actually see and understand what is happening can be countered simply by giving some relatively small incident wall-to-wall media coverage for a few weeks, then letting the "pundits" sit and tell everyone how anti-American it is to not want to do "x". (x being reading everyone's emails, listening to everyone's phone calls, banning guns, placing a large urban area under martial law, or warrantless this or national security letter that...the list goes on and on.)
     
    So, essentially, any time the people on the side of good win back one step of freedom or due process, we take 5 more steps down the road to slavery. This is why it's so egregious now. Someone essentially disabled the firewall (the public caring and fighting for freedom), then used a root exploit (a perceived massive threat to safety sold to us by the media) on the constitution.
     
    The only way to fix it is to remove the offending exploit (stop caring about every little incident that occurs) and put the firewall back up (make people care about freedom again). Unfortunately, given how we are all asleep at the wheel, there's a snowball's chance in hell of that actually happening. As long as the average citizen has food, booze, sex, and "Ow, My Balls!" on the TV, why would they want anything more?

  • Re:Hmm ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by steelfood (895457) on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:26PM (#43878663)

    No. It's on display for all to see.

    In the paleoanthropology section of the Smithsonian.

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