National Security Letters ruled unconstitutional

A federal court judge has ruled that National Security Letters (NSLs) — the controversial, ultra-clandestine surveillance tools used by the FBI to gather information on individuals — are unconstitutional and must be halted.

In a ruling issued on Thursday, Judge Susan Illston of the US District Court in San Francisco found that the “gag order” provision of the NSL law violates the First Amendment protections on freedom of speech.

Under the law, recipients of NSLs are forbidden from disclosing the contents of the letters to anyone. Even discussing the mere fact that the letters exist is verboten.

Furthermore, Judge Illston said, the clauses in the law that limit court oversight of NSLs violate the principle of separation of powers, which holds that each branch of the US government is granted specific powers designed to act as checks against the powers of the other branches.

Having determined that there was no way to rewrite either of these sections of the law to bring them in line with legal principles, the judge declared the entire law unconstitutional and ordered the government to cease issuing NSLs — via redwolf.newsvine.com

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