Magazine article American Libraries

Appeal Maintains Voiding of Gag Order

Magazine article American Libraries

Appeal Maintains Voiding of Gag Order

Article excerpt

A federal appeals court ruled unanimously December 15, 2008, that it is unconstitutional to gag recipients of a National Security Letter from discussing its receipt unless disclosure might interfere with "an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."

ALA and its Freedom to Read Foundation were among the groups filing amicus curiae briefs in Doe v. Mukasey on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a September 2007 district court ruling, although the appeals court narrowed the circumstances under which the FBI can enjoin a provider of internet access, interpreted as including libraries, from revealing the receipt of a National Security Letter demanding the e-mail addresses and websites accessed by one or more users.

Appeals court Judge Jon O. Newman agreed with the lower court that a nondisclosure order restrains the recipient "from publicly expressing a category of information, albeit a narrow one, and that information is relevant to intended criticism of a governmental activity," and found it irrelevant that an NSL recipient "did not intend to speak and was not subject to any administrative restraint on speaking prior to the government's issuance of an NSL. …

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