FBI Patriot probe prevented by EFF, etc.

It's IT Blogwatch: in which the Internet Archive/EFF/ACLU declare victory over the FBI's super-secret, Patriot-Act-style request for information. Not to mention what it would be like if Facebook was played out in real life...

Jaikumar Vijayan reports:

Two civil rights groups on Wednesday claimed a shared victory in getting the FBI to withdraw a national security letter (NSL) issued to the Internet Archive secretly seeking information on a patron of the online library. The withdrawal of the letter and an associated gag order followed a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). In a press conference earlier today, the two groups and the Internet Archive said they had reached a settlement agreement with the FBI, under which the latter has withdrawn its NSL and agreed to the unsealing of the case, after a four-month negotiation ... The letter that's the subject of the settlement announced today was served ... asked the library to provide the FBI with the name, address, "electronic communication transaction records," transaction and activity logs, and all email header information associated with a patron of the online library. more

Dan Goodin adds:

The FBI has withdrawn a secret order that used new anti-terrorism powers to demand information about a user of the Internet Archive without a court order after attorneys challenged it as an unconstitutional abuse of power. The victory for the San Francisco-based digital library meant that its founder was able to speak publicly about the sweeping demand, known as an NSL or national security letter, for the first time on Wednesday. Up until now, the demand for personal information about an undisclosed Internet Archive patron was protected by a gag order that prevented all but a handful of people from knowing it even existed. Since the 9/11 attacks, the use of NSLs has proved a popular tool for getting information in government investigations if it is deemed relevant to terrorism or espionage. More than 200,000 of them were issued between 2003 and 2006, and yet, because of the secrecy surrounding them, only three have been known to have been challenged in court. Remarkably, all three challenges have succeeded. more

The IA's Brewster Kahle briefly gloats:

The Internet Archive was served a National Security Letter by the FBI demanding information about a patron of the Archive. The Archive fought it with the help of the EFF and ACLU. We won. We can now talk about it, and what it is like to get a secret demand. We hope that this will be useful for the others that will receive these powerful demands. More information:

EFF. more

Ryan Singel 'splains:

The Internet Archive [is] a project to create a digital library of the web for posterity ... The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet Archive's lawyers, fought the NSL ... The Patriot Act greatly expanded the reach of NSLs, which are subpoenas for documents such as billing records and telephone records that the FBI can issue in terrorism investigations without a judge's approval. Nearly all NSLs come with gag orders forbidding the recipient from ever speaking of the subpoena ... Brewster Kahle called the gag order "horrendous," saying he couldn't talk about the case with his board members, wife or staff, but said that his stand was part of a time-honored tradition of librarians protecting the rights of their patrons ... Though Kahle [is still prevented from saying] what the feds were after, he stressed that the Internet Archive stores very little non-public information -- only an unverified email address for those who choose to provide it -- and does not log IP addresses. more

Mike Masnick remembers:

Congress curtailed the FBI's ability to use National Security Letters (NSLs) a few years ago after it became clear that the FBI was widely abusing the process to request information from organizations with no judicial oversight and with built in gag orders forbidding recipients from talking about receiving the letters. However, the FBI is still using the letters in some cases ... As the EFF points out, this [victory] should serve as a blueprint for how others can challenge questionable NSLs as well. more

Digg user mfc5200 had this to say:

What part of "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" do they not understand? One of the most intelligent suggestions I've ever heard I read here on digg. The person said instead of reciting the pledge of allegiance every morning (which was written by a Christian socialist in the late 19th century), we should instead just repeat the bill of rights. If I ever start a private school, there is no doubt I will take that approach. more

Joseph Lorenzo Hall makes light:

[What should we call this? A Brewster-macro? A LOL-Kahle? -Ed.] more

And finally...

Buffer overflow:

Other Computerworld bloggers:

RSS feed icon
Like this stuff? Subscribe to the RSS feed.

Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 21 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him on Twitter, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Previously in IT Blogwatch:

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon