Nicholas Merrill, 37, the owner of Calyx Internet Access — a combination ISP and security consultancy — who mounted a high-profile court challenge to a secret FBI records demand has finally been partially released from a 6-year-old gag order that forced him to keep his role in the case a secret from even his closest friends and family. He can now identify himself and discuss the case, although he still can’t reveal what information the FBI sought.
Despite the fact that the FBI later dropped its demand for the records, Merrill was prohibited from telling his fiancée, friends or family members that he had received the letter or that he was embroiled in a lawsuit challenging its legitimacy.
"I hope my successful challenge to the FBI’s NSL gag power will empower others who may have received NSLs to speak out" Merrill said in a statement.
A national security letter is an informal administrative letter the FBI can use to secretly demand customer records from ISPs, financial institutions, libraries, insurance companies, travel agencies, stockbrokers, car dealerships and others. NSLs have been used since the 1980s, but the Patriot Act, passed after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and a subsequent revision in 2003 expanded the kinds of records that could be obtained with an NSL.