I am not a fan of the American Civil Liberties Union, but in this case I believe they took the right side.
American Civil Liberties Union v. Ashcroft (filed April 9, 2004 in the United States) is a lawsuit filed on behalf of an unknown party by the American Civil Liberties Union against the U.S. federal government. The unknown party, an Internet service provider, was subject to National Security Letters (NSLs) from the Federal Bureau of Investigation requiring the release of private information and under a gag order forbidding any public discussion of the issues. In September 2004, Judge Victor Marrero of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York struck down the NSL provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. This prompted Congress to amend the law to allow limited judicial review of NSLs, and prompted the government to appeal the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The appeal was dismissed by Doe I v. Gonzales, 449 F.3d 415 (2d Cir. 2006) because Congress amended Section 2709 in the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005, Pub. L. No. 109-177, sec. 116, 120 Stat. 192, 213 (2006).
On the recommendation of the Second Circuit, the district court considered the amended law in 2007, in Doe v. Gonzales. On September 6, 2007, Judge Marrero struck down the NSL provision of the revised Act, ruling that even with limited judicial review granted in the amended law, it was still a violation of separation of powers under the United States Constitution and the First Amendment. This is not yet enforced, pending a possible government appeal.
A heavily redacted page from the original lawsuit. LOOKS LIKE THIS IN THE CASE OF******************WE DO FIND****************ON THIS DAY OF 06/04/2004
***************************and therefore******************* swore to me Judge*********************
You get the idea, everything relevant is blacked out.
Because of the secrecy rules involved, the government would not let the ACLU disclose they had even filed a case for nearly a month, after which they were permitted to release a heavily redacted version of the complaint (like that would do them any good, nothing is readable) According to government secrecy rules (the National Security Letter provision, [Section 2709] of the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, [ECPA]) the ACLU still could not disclose which ISP was served with the request to produce documents.
This prompted the ACLU to challenge the secrecy law itself, and they sued to invalidate the NSL provision of the ECPA. Introduced by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and enacted in 1986, the bill permitted the FBI to obtain customer records from telephone and Internet companies in terrorism investigations.
The ACLU argued that the NSL violated the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution because
Section 2709 failed to spell out any legal process whereby a telephone or Internet company could try to oppose an NSL subpoena in court and
Section 2709 prohibited the recipient of an NSL subpoena from disclosing that he had received such a request from the FBI, and outweighs the FBI's need for secrecy in counter-terrorism investigations.
The government agreed in principle with the ACLU's claim that the recipient of the subpoena can challenge it in court, and because the matter of specified judicial process remained in question and directly affected other present and future cases, the Court found the NSL section to be in need of review.
The Court subsequently found section 2709 of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act unconstitutional. It reasoned that it could not find in the provision an implied right for the person receiving the subpoena to challenge it in court as is constitutionally required.
The finding of unconstitutionality essentially dismisses any claimed presumptive legal need for absolute secrecy in regard to terrorism cases. The USA PATRIOT Act is affected only if the limits on NSLs in terrorism cases also apply to non-terrorism cases such as those authorized by the Act. The government was expected to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, and until the district court ruling is reviewed, the secrecy procedures of the NSL remain in place.
This is part of the Patriot Act that was not explained to us just like the parts of the health care bill and the Finance Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Like so many things, yet our President sees no harm in revealing how many war heads we have and what kind they are, things that our enemies love to know. Like the governors from Minnesota and Texas and about 12 other governors who have recieved NSL's, I too fear where our government is taking us, I hope that those Governors do acknowlege that they have recived these letters and allow the people of their respective states know that the current administration not only will not protect US citizens, it will not allow us to protect ourselves. I take as example the U.N. Small Arms Treaty, this is nothing less than an attempt to take away our Second Amendment Right To Bare Arms. Look at what they did in England, they have taken away their hunting rifles, in the past they took their hand guns. One resident, Tony Martin had been robbed several times in a couple months, he lived rural enough that there were not police close or neighbors so finally he shot one of the robber when they were in his house. He got life in prison for premeditated murder. Just because he planned to protect himself and his property. Now the sentence has been reduced, but he is still in jail and being sued by the burgler. The burgler who was killed was 16 years old and had around 20 breakins on his police record. The other guy was in his early 30's and had 34 convictions on his record. I guess they don't have a three times and your in for life law in England. If you think removing guns from the public make us safer, look at England and Australias crime rates after guns are confidiscated from honest citizens. Violent crime up 30 plus percent. All crime up close to 40%. YoU DO THE MATH. From my cold dead fingers.