New Documents Reveal Government Effort to Impose Secrecy on Encryption Company

When it comes to this country’s courts, longstanding practice, history, and the Constitution make clear that openness—of doors, of evidence, of arguments, of opinions—is the rule. Like the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech, that rule is not absolute. But it puts in place a default, one that forces those who want to keep court proceedings secret to show, in each case, that secrecy is warranted—and that the need for secrecy overcomes the traditions and values of openness that animate the default rule in the first place.

But in far too many cases across the country, the government appears to have reversed the presumption that the First Amendment establishes, opting to keep secret information about its demands for private data where transparency is required and would serve the public good.

Today—after getting the government to back down on one of these recent secrecy overreaches—the ACLU and our client, Open Whisper Systems (OWS), are publishing a series of documents that help illuminate just how much the exception has become the rule in American courtrooms and law enforcement. Indeed, that they are public at all is remarkable by itself.

The fight began earlier this year as part of a federal grand jury proceeding in the Eastern District of Virginia. The government issued a subpoena seeking a vast array of information from Signal, the encrypted-communications app launched by OWS. (The subpoena requested information for any accounts associated with two phone numbers, but one of the numbers was not associated with a Signal account.) OWS is also the force behind the Signal Protocol, which powers the encryption built into WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Google’s Allo.

Excerpt from subpoena showing demand for data

As the documents show, the government’s effort did not amount to much—not because OWS refused to comply with the government’s subpoena (it complied), but because the company simply does not keep the kinds of information about their customers that the government sought (and that too many technology companies continue to amass). All OWS was able to provide were the dates and times for when the account was created and when it last connected to Signal’s servers.

OWS response to subpoena: just two small pieces of information

But when the government served OWS with its subpoena in the first half of 2016, it also served the company with a gag order demanding complete silence as to the kinds of data sought, the fact of the company’s compliance, and more—and as the documents we’re releasing today show, the gag was to last an entire year.

A magistrate judge signed the gag order, citing “reason to believe that notification of the existence of the . . . subpoena will seriously jeopardize the investigation [under prosecution by the grand jury], including by giving targets an opportunity to flee or continue flight from prosecution, destroy or tamper with evidence, change patterns of behavior, or notify confederates.”

Of course, those risks could be real, and the government’s need for secrecy in law enforcement investigations cannot be dismissed outright. But that general interest applies in virtually every criminal investigation, including those involving the public execution of search warrants. To meet the stringent First Amendment standard, any gag must be justified by something much greater. The First Amendment requires that to close courtrooms or seal evidence—and especially to prohibit a party from speaking publicly on a matter of public concern—the government demonstrate a compelling interest in secrecy, and it must apply that secrecy in the narrowest possible way. But instead, the government appears to seek blanket gag orders by default, without considering precisely what information can be disclosed without harm to its interests.

To its credit, the government quickly agreed with us that most of the information under seal could be publicly disclosed. But the fact that the government didn't put up too much of a fight suggests that secrecy—and not transparency—has become a governmental default when it comes to demands for our electronic information, and critically, not everyone has the resources or the ability to work with the ACLU to challenge it.

OWS immediately recognized that even though the government required some secrecy over the subpoena, it did not need, nor could it justify, total secrecy. So OWS came to us, and we went to the government, which agreed to reverse its original demand for secrecy—and now OWS’s customers and the broader public can see for themselves just how wildly overbroad the government’s gag order was from the jump. And while this—the only one ever received by OWS—is now public, there are many more like it, hiding in the filing cabinets in the U.S. attorney’s offices across the country.

Of course, not all of those gag orders relate to grand jury subpoenas like the one issued to OWS. The government routinely uses secrecy order to shield information from the public when seeking information under many other authorities, including national security letters and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). The First Amendment applies there, too, and the government should only be seeking gag orders to protect truly sensitive information when, for example, it seeks to use malware in criminal investigations or obtain emails under ECPA.

Electronic communications providers like Signal have dual roles as custodians of Americans’ private data and as necessary actors in the execution of government surveillance requests. As today’s release makes clear, those providers have a critical role to play and an indispensable perspective to share with the public about government surveillance practices—and their fight for transparency is the ACLU’s as well.

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Can’t wait for the metadata anonymization! The govt. will have loads of fun ;-)

Especially when p≡p will start supporting GNUnet!


Serious question Brett,

Why not file a Motion for Sanctions in the suit against Signal or potentially a whole new suit under § 1983 with Signal as lead Plaintiff because the DOJ is routinely serving frivolous gag orders?

Your article (and the WaPo article) mentions that as soon as private industry pushes back legally the government backs down on their secrecy claims.

> "To its credit, the government quickly agreed with us that most of the information under seal could be publicly disclosed."

So why not fight fire with fire? Sue them for an injunction and declaration that sending a gag order when they know or should know that such an order is unnecessary is a violation of the fourth and first amendments. Or, if you don't want to actual fund a new federal suit, you could move for sanctions under rule 11.

Just an idea.

Carla Rodrigues

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Great post! Thanks for sharing us.


This is really a very nice article. You have here really shared the nice post.
Thanks for Sharing this


Fantastic post. Very interesting about security.

Thank you so much for sharing.


October 4th, the date in which this post was written, is approaching again. This means it should be well passed the initial year the gag order requested. Will you be petitioning the court to release the records in full or are you satisfied with the redacted release restrictions?


This site is very powerful and good is on your shoolders to protect your own account.some people use it to keep in touch with their friends while some have had the luck use Facebook.


i liked this post, its very informative


They are also ruining the economy to trigger an elimination of the America
as we know it, so they can round up, and exterminate everyone who knows too
much. They caught me once. In 1959 my buddy and I met a homeless banished
ex-lodge member. He told us all the big secrets. In 1962 I wrote them in a
high school term paper, got a 98% for it, graduated with honors, and joined the
Meanwhile, the instructor of that class sold my term paper in the term paper
black market, the wrong people read it, they hired detectives to hunt me down,
and they zeroed in on me in the Army. They gave me Hell, the Clockwork Orange
treatment, by large doses of LSD, while being forced to watch horrible films of
human torment.
But before doing that, they bragged to me how powerful they were: the modern
"conspiracy theory". Before the modern conspiracy theory, the "conspiracy
theory" was that rich Jews controlled the world's economy. I wrote a twenty page
report and mailed it to the John Birch society, in 1972. Then the John Birch
society published what I sent them which became the modern conspiracy theory.
The Clockwork Orange treatment I was given, by large doses of LSD, went
much further than they expected. Not only did I live the torments of all the
people in the films they showed me, I lived the times, when I saw them, of every
person and animal I had seen, even in the movies and on TV. After that life I
found myself back in time, back in Valley Forge Army Hospital where it happened
again, but, I also body switched into the bodies of all I had seen in that life,
for the periods of time I had seen them. Then the life after that, I was able to
remember some of the mistakes I made the last time around.
On September 17, 1970 I got stung by a bumble bee, while I was deep in the
forest. I am allergic to bees, and soon I passed out, waking up, what seemed
instantly, six hours later. This turned out to be a great blessing, for the next
time around, after another life time, I woke up back where I had passed out from
the allergic reaction. But, I had great mind power there and used it to defend
myself, but later, got so much mind power that my every thought manifested as my
reality, and I couldn't handle it. I ended up body switching again, and found
myself back in Valley Forge Army Hospital, and started again from there.
This series of pairs happened 36 times, giving me an existence as who I
am, for over 5000 years, by going backward and forward in time so many times.
This was done to me for printing in a term paper what a banished lodge ex-member
told me, which can be put in medical terms today in one sentence,
So, even though I was threatened to be put in Hell permanently, each time,
I have done everything in my power to spread these secrets. Here is another
example: We are drawn to the probability timeline resonant to our thought, by the
attractive force of inductive resonance. Vagal stimulation wakes up the brain to
more than the normal 10% brain use. This means 10% brain use at any one time,
like, an MRI shows the most used parts of the brain by patches of colored light,
but, these move around, so that we average 10% brain use, if we are "normal".
But, with 10% brain use or less we must earn what we get; 20% to 29%, an
appropriate ritual will get us what we want; 30% to 39%, writing down what we
want will get it; 40% to 49%, saying what we want will get what we want: "If you
have the faith of a mustard seed and SAY to this mountain move, it shall be
moved", you go to the timeline where the mountain is elsewhere. But, 50% is the
tipping point to every thought manifesting as your reality.
Dr. Hugh Everett found these probability timelines, sideways in time, but,
he failed to call this direction a dimension. Dr. Albert Einstein defined time
to be the fourth dimension, for science. Dr. Hugh Everett could have defined
this direction sideways in time to be the fifth dimension, but, he didn't,
probably pressured not to due to this being the secret of sorcery, probability
Dr. Lisa Randall defined that direction through the variously bent
timespaces to be the fifth dimension, for science, leaving the direction
sideways in time to be the sixth dimension, but, it hasn't been officially
established in formal science.
Waking up the brain to higher percentages of brain use accesses globally
bent timespace. It puts a field of globally bent timespace around us and in us,
but fortunately, without the gravitational component. It does this by virtue of
will times imagination being the power of the mind, just as force times velocity
is power in mechanics, voltage times current is power in electricity, and
temperature times entropy production rate is power in thermodynamics.
Psychiatrists will admit to each other that this power of the mind is caused
by entropy production rate, EPR, because more than 10% brain use is called
"psychosis". The psychiatric establishment in the Western world is a secret
society, and have also signed a contract of secrecy for the cartel of secret
It is a mathematical fact that the more links there are between the neurons
of the brain, the higher the percentage of brain use. Real schizophrenia, is
caused by the gene DISC1,
causing the growth of more axons and dendrites between the
neurons of the brain. If every neuron were linked to every other neuron, there
would be 100% brain use. There are some schizophrenics with over 50% brain use,
catatonic, but who's entity is body switching in perinatal matrix three, Hell.
But, anyone can cause the growth of extra axons and dendrites by memorizing
tables of correspondences, like in Crowley's "Book 777", and in Barrett's
"Magus". The first thing that magical secret societies have their neophytes do is
to memorize such tables of correspondences. Later they have them do rigorous
pranayama, without telling them how it works. Finally the supreme secret is
revealed, that can be put in dignified medical terms today: "VAGAL STIMULATION
The entropy of the universe being the proportion of photons to nucleons
(Nucleons of exact opposite polarity cancel out into photons, when brought
together), reveals that entropy production rate, EPR, is polarity cancellation
By promoting the fast cancellation of opposite polarities, like by putting
opposite polarities in a conductive electrolyte, like copper dissolved into
copper acetate in salt and white vinegar, (The iron in the cytochromes of
every cell is magnetically polarized counterclockwise in males, and clockwise in
females), the field of globally bent timespace around it, when entered, will
cause higher percentages of brain use.
Such a device, called a "shekinah", has been known to "freak out" a whole
building of people just by being hid in a closet. This is the alchemical secret, for,
by putting base metals in this solution, when, with a high EPR is called "the
medicine of metals", will change the metal into gold and other metals,
that will be fluid in that solution
so that they can be separated by gravity or inertia while still fluid, yet you
can safely put your hand in this solution, that is, I did, and there is nothing
wrong with me.
Finally, I figured out how to get out of this Hellish cycle. I must have
been in perinatal matrix three when I died to go back to Valley Forge Army
Hospital. I must have been in perinatal matrix two to go back to September 17,
1970. Next time, I must die in perinatal matrix one or in no perinatal matrix
whatsoever. To understand these terms, you may go to
and buy "The Adventure of self Discovery" by Dr. Stanislav Grof.
What did I do for such evil to come upon me, when I was a teen ager. The
Bible says, "The sins of the fathers are visited upon the sons". In the one
substance motion can only be in closed circuitry, that there be something to
move out of the way and fill in behind. That is how karma comes back to us, even
the karma associated with our genetics. The best thing to do is to find a way
out of it. To become nonexistent.
There are two things in the universe: energy; and, information, which is
the conformation of energy. Energy is God. Being only information we can become
nonexistent. Nothing in the Bible says we are immortal, rather, Satan in Eden
did say "You shall never die". The immortality of the soul dogma is Satanic. The
Bible also says,
"The soul that sinneth shall die", "No man can keep his soul alive", and, "Only
He (God) is immortal".


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