Over the weekend, WNYC's On the Media (OTM) featured an interview with ACLU client Nick Merrill, who challenged the National Security Letter he received six years ago in 2004. (See Nick's NSL here.) The ACLU represented Nick in his successful challenge of his NSL; his was the first lawsuit brought against the powers of the then-new Patriot Act. It was only late last year that he was finally able to speak publicly about the case.
Nick told OTM's Bob Garfield that you don't need gag people or companies to protect national security:
Numerous terrorism plots have been broken up using those types of tools. If we don't have checks and balances, then we're really, I think, going down a dangerous path, and the purpose of having a judge listen to the evidence from law enforcement is to provide a check on their power.
Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU's Center for Democracy, represented Nick in his case. Jameel also spoke to OTM, and pointed out that after we won our cases challenging NSLs, "courts [must] now give real, meaningful scrutiny to the FBI's claim that secrecy is necessary."
But as OTM notes, 50,000 NSLs and their accompanying gag orders are still being served by the government every year. And last summer, the Obama administration proposed expanding — yes expanding! — the NSL statute to allow the FBI to get even more electronic records without court approval or even suspicion of wrongdoing.
While the NSL provisions aren’t scheduled to expire this year, other surveillance provisions of the Patriot Act are. Tell Congress: Now is the time to amend the National Security Letter statute and reform the Patriot Act!