And here’s why they’re gagging everyone

140,000 “warrants”. No probable cause, no judicial oversight. When the Patriot Act was passed, I remember well the eye-rolling that went on in some areas whenever it was pointed out how easily it could be abused. If you even mentioned that the FBI might abuse the incredible power, you were ridiculed, despite the Justice Department’s long, sordid history of abusing their powers. They promised us all that they’d not abuse this power. And the very minute they got it, the abuse began.

One man, an internet service provider like myself, got one of these NSLs. His account of the story was printed anonymously by the Washington Post as to not violate a three year old gag order. Note well that although the FBI has already decided that they didn’t need the information requested by the guy’s NSL and dropped it, they did not drop the gag order. I share the opinion of the guy that they only hold onto the gag order so that their flagrant abuses of their power won’t easily come to light. From the article:

The Justice Department’s inspector general revealed on March 9 that the FBI has been systematically abusing one of the most controversial provisions of the USA Patriot Act: the expanded power to issue “national security letters.” It no doubt surprised most Americans to learn that between 2003 and 2005 the FBI issued more than 140,000 specific demands under this provision — demands issued without a showing of probable cause or prior judicial approval — to obtain potentially sensitive information about U.S. citizens and residents. It did not, however, come as any surprise to me.

Yup, the government forces you to lie to your loved ones:

When clients and friends ask me whether I am the one challenging the constitutionality of the NSL statute, I have no choice but to look them in the eye and lie.

I resent being conscripted as a secret informer for the government and being made to mislead those who are close to me, especially because I have doubts about the legitimacy of the underlying investigation.

But, hey, the Justice Department doesn’t seem to think lying is wrong, they’re demonstrably willing to do it to Congress while simultaneously denying Congress’ ability to determine facts:

I found it particularly difficult to be silent about my concerns while Congress was debating the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in 2005 and early 2006. If I hadn’t been under a gag order, I would have contacted members of Congress to discuss my experiences and to advocate changes in the law. The inspector general’s report confirms that Congress lacked a complete picture of the problem during a critical time: Even though the NSL statute requires the director of the FBI to fully inform members of the House and Senate about all requests issued under the statute, the FBI significantly underrepresented the number of NSL requests in 2003, 2004 and 2005, according to the report.

How long before we all realize that the checks and balances in our government are there to prevent just this sort of abuse, and demand the restoration of and adherence to those checks and balances? How long before we are forced to re-learn what our founders already knew, that when you give a government any unrestricted power, the government will quickly abuse that same power? Do we really want the USA to become a place where the police can overwhelmingly disrupt someone’s life without even having to convince a judge that it is necessary or even rational? Do we really think there is any circumstance in which the act of writing one’s congressional representative should be illegal?

We have the right of representation, both legally and in government. No government branch should be allowed to control communication between a citizen and the other two branches. If I want to bring up an issue before Congress, then it is Congress, and Congress alone, that decides whether my voice is heard. It is specifically not within the authority of either the executive or judicial branches to deny my right to speak freely to the legislative branch.

To learn more about all this, check out the ACLU’s national security letter site.

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