Fourteen years after the FBI began using national security letters to unilaterally and quietly demand records from Internet service providers, telephone companies and financial institutions, one recipient — former ISP founder Nicholas Merrill — is finally free to talk about what it’s like to get one.
The FBI issues the letters, known as NSLs, without any judicial review whatsoever. And they come with a gag order.
But a federal District Court judge in New York ruled in September that the continuous ban on Merrill’s speech about the order was not justified, considering that the FBI’s investigation was long over and most details about the order were already openly available.
After waiting for 90 days to let the government appeal the decision — which it didn’t — the judge lifted the gag on Monday.
Merrill immediately released the FBI’s attachment to the national security letter it sent him 11 years ago, listing the kinds of information it wanted about a particular customer without getting a warrant.