Google has made an “extraordinary petition” against the federal government in reference to warrantless data collecting known as a “National Security Letter.” The so-called NSL is an “ultra-secret” request by the FBI to obtain data on an American citizen, which is clearly a violation of the fourth Amendment.
Kim Zetter from Wired reports that the move comes “just days after a U.S. District Judge in California ruled in a case brought by an unnamed company and the Electronic Frontier Foundation that so-called NSLs that come with a gag order on the recipient are an unconstitutional impingement on free speech.” The gag order is so that if the federal government requests private data from a citizen, the recipient of that request must keep quiet.
Ironically, last month a federal judge ordered the government to stop the practice, which was deemed a “stunning defeat for the Obama administration’s surveillance practices.” In a move that would make privacy activists leap for joy, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston additionally ordered the Obama Administration to “cease enforcing the gag provision” even in prior cases. The government was given 90 days, however, to give them the opportunity to appeal the ruling. You can be sure that a team of taxpayer-funded lawyers are feverishly working around the clock to ensure that the federal government can continue to spy on Americans.
In case the federal government needs a refresher on the fourth amendment to the Constitution, a document which they have sworn under oath to protect, here it is:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
It is unknown why Google made the decision to petition against this particular NSL; as they most certainly complied in previous cases. Regardless, it is unknown why the U.S. government should be able to spy on citizens without a warrant. Well, Judge Susan Illston seems to know the answer to that question. They can’t. America should demand to know who has been targeted with an NSL and why. VentureBeat reports that “of 300,000 government-issued NSLs since 2000, only a handful of companies have resisted.” How many resulted in arrests? If legitimate cause was determined initially, a warrant should not have been difficult to obtain.
Photo Source: Bloomberg