San Francisco, California—On Thursday, December 20, at 10 am, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will urge a federal judge to order the FBI to release the names of national security letter (NSLs) recipients that are no longer under a bureau gag order blocking them from speaking out.

The hearing is in EFF’s Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit against the Justice Department seeking records that will shed light on whether the FBI is complying with a federal law mandating that it review and lift NSL gag orders that are no longer needed. NSLs are secret, warrantless demands for customer information that gag telecom and Internet providers from telling anyone—customers, the public, or employees—that they have turned over to the government their customers’ personal information, such as phone and email records. Recipients of these highly intrusive demands should not be gagged forever and should be able to talk about their experiences. After EFF challenged the constitutionality of NSL gag orders in court, Congress included in the 2015 USA Freedom Act reforms requiring the FBI to periodically review and terminate gag orders if secrecy is no longer warranted.

Documents EFF has obtained in the FOIA lawsuit show that the FBI has determined that gag orders could be lifted in at least 700 cases without jeopardizing national security or harming ongoing investigations. Indeed, several providers have published NSLs they received after the FBI informed them that they could speak out. Yet, the FBI has refused to release those recipients’ names, saying that it would reveal secret information, and give criminals a heads-up about how the FBI conducts investigations. EFF Staff Attorney Aaron Mackey will argue that once the FBI has released NSL recipients from gag orders and told those providers that they are free to speak, the bureau can’t then claim that disclosure in a FOIA case would be harmful.

Hearing on EFF’s motion to release NSL recipient names

Thursday, December 20, at 10 am

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
Courtroom 4, 17th Floor
450 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102-3489

For more about NSLs:

For EFF's motion to release names of NSL recipients:


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