National Security Letters are controversial among privacy advocates because of their broad powers and minimal oversight. The FBI sends the letters whenever senior officials deem necessary, but no court approval is involved. Although the legal weight of the letters is unclear, the agency's intimidation tactics typically work, said Andrew Crocker, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in an interview with The Verge. Recipients comply, especially when they’re bound to silence and can’t discuss the terrifying letter they just received. "More transparency is really needed, and not just [around] what [the FBI] can get and how many they issue," Crocker said. The gag order and lack of judicial opinions over their constitutionality particularly need to be rethought, he said. Merrill's case is a start.
Monday, November 30, 2015