EFF Urges Appeals Court to Find Secret Subpoena Power Unconstitutional
New York - The Electronic Frontier Foundation, joined by several civil liberties organizations and online service providers, filed a friend-of-the-court brief yesterday in the case of Doe v. Gonzales arguing that National Security Letters (NSLs) are unconstitutional. NSLs are secret subpoenas for communications logs, issued directly by the FBI without any judicial oversight. These secret subpoenas allow the FBI to demand that online service providers produce records of where their customers go on the Web, as well as what they read and with whom they exchange email. The FBI can even issue NSLs for information about people who haven't committed any crimes.
A federal district court has already found NSLs unconstitutional, and the government is now appealing the case. In its brief to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, EFF argues that these secret subpoenas imperil free speech by allowing the FBI to track people's online activities. In addition, NSLs violate the First and Fourth Amendment rights of the service providers who receive the secret government demands. EFF and its cosigners argue that NSLs for Internet logs should be subject to the same strict judicial scrutiny applied to other subpoenas that may reveal information about the identities of anonymous speakers