US appeals court upholds gag orders on national security letters to firms like Apple

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The FBI can indeed serve companies like Apple national security letters that come with a gag order, preventing them from telling customers, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Monday.




Two companies -- content distributor CloudFlare, and phone network CREDO Mobile -- earlier sued the U.S. government, arguing they should be able to tell customers about five national security letters (NSLs) they received between 2011 and 2013, Reuters reported. The firms said that gags violated their First Amendment rights.

NSLs are one of the more controversial aspects of the modern U.S. surveillance apparatus, since they avoid warrant requirements while letting agencies gain access to communications data. With gag orders, targets may never know they were being watched.

Writing on behalf of a 9th Circuit panel, Judge Sandra Ikuta said that gag orders fulfill a compelling government interest, while being sufficiently narrow and allowing for judicial review. On the latter point, she noted that legal changes passed by Congress in 2015 increased oversight.

Apple recently acknowledged receiving one NSL in 2016, the first it has admitted to since it started issuing transparency reports in 2013. The real number is likely much higher though, given the popularity of the iPhone and other Apple devices.

The company said it received between 5,750 and 5,999 national security orders in general during the second half of 2016, a sharp spike from 2,750 to 2,999 in the first half. The lack of precision is linked to U.S. government restrictions, preventing order numbers from being reported in batches below 250.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 32
    longpathlongpath Posts: 217member
    In so doing, the court is acquiescing to the Legislative and Executive branches, rather than serving the adversarial role the Founders envisioned. This is not the first time the Courts have done so, with such abridgment of the Bill of Rights going back well over a century, so it's hardly a surprise. The surprise is that the American people continue to tolerate it.
    MisterKitStrangeDaysfastasleepSnickersMagoobuzdotsjbdragontallest skilwilliamlondonMacProOfer
  • Reply 2 of 32
    bkkcanuckbkkcanuck Posts: 854member
    Gag orders should come with a time limit... after which when it expires ... they either have to show that the investigation is ongoing and thus extend the gag order, or allow the gag order to expire.
    teejay2012StrangeDaysfastasleepmacxpress6ryph3njbdragonYvLyhaarOferjony0
  • Reply 3 of 32
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 1,820member
    Yet another reason why California should secede. Washington's bullying tactics and outdated laws coupled with the IRS's shortsighted tax laws are counter productive California's innovative culture.
  • Reply 4 of 32
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,246member
    longpath said:
    In so doing, the court is acquiescing to the Legislative and Executive branches, rather than serving the adversarial role the Founders envisioned. This is not the first time the Courts have done so, with such abridgment of the Bill of Rights going back well over a century, so it's hardly a surprise. The surprise is that the American people continue to tolerate it.
    Sounds like you're saying the courts are required to oppose anything proposed by the legislative and executive, otherwise they are not doing their job. Regardless of the merits of this case, that just makes no sense. 
    lkruppwilliamlondon
  • Reply 5 of 32
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,799member
    Yet another reason why California should secede. Washington's bullying tactics and outdated laws coupled with the IRS's shortsighted tax laws are counter productive California's innovative culture.
    Get a grip on yourself.
    robin huberEsquireCatsmobirdjbdragontallest skil
  • Reply 6 of 32
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,110member
    Creating a secret security apparatus is the first step to tyranny. And please note this practice took root under both Bush and Obama, so none of these bozos get a pass.
    jbdragontallest skilwilliamlondonOfer
  • Reply 7 of 32
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,110member
    lkrupp said:
    Yet another reason why California should secede. Washington's bullying tactics and outdated laws coupled with the IRS's shortsighted tax laws are counter productive California's innovative culture.
    Get a grip on yourself.
    Going by their policy history, and business & cultural climate, I'd rather have California rule that Virginia/DC rule. 
    edited July 2017
  • Reply 8 of 32
    stevehsteveh Posts: 480member
    lkrupp said:
    Yet another reason why California should secede. Washington's bullying tactics and outdated laws coupled with the IRS's shortsighted tax laws are counter productive California's innovative culture.
    Get a grip on yourself.
    Going by their policy history, and business & cultural climate, I'd rather have California rule that Virginia/DC rule. 
    Having spent 64 years in California, most of them as a working taxpayer, I'd say good luck to you.

    You'll surely need it.
    jbdragon
  • Reply 9 of 32
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,770member
    StrangeDays said:

    Going by their policy history, and business & cultural climate, I'd rather have California rule that Virginia/DC rule. 
    It is not so much the location of the capital that matters. It is the elected officials in the government who make the policies and they are from all around the country. California does have the largest population and therefore they already make up the largest contingent among the 435 member US house of representatives. 

    California: 53
    Texas: 36
    New York: 27
    Florida: 27

    It is interesting to note that the population is determined by the Census, including illegal aliens. If you only counted legal residents, California would lose 6 representatives. But even then it would still have more representation than any other state. New York, Texas and Florida would each lose 1 representative and many states in the upper midwest and south would gain 1 representative.
    edited July 2017 buzdotsjbdragontallest skil
  • Reply 10 of 32
    farmboyfarmboy Posts: 152member
    bkkcanuck said:
    Gag orders should come with a time limit... after which when it expires ... they either have to show that the investigation is ongoing and thus extend the gag order, or allow the gag order to expire.
    You can always go to court and request that it be lifted. Gags have to be narrowly defined, so you can carefully reveal things that fall outside the narrow order. The problem with screwing with an alphabet agency is that they can bury you with new paper just because you pissed them off. It's OK to play hardball in your defense, just stay within the foul lines.
  • Reply 11 of 32
    bkkcanuckbkkcanuck Posts: 854member
    farmboy said:
    bkkcanuck said:
    Gag orders should come with a time limit... after which when it expires ... they either have to show that the investigation is ongoing and thus extend the gag order, or allow the gag order to expire.
    You can always go to court and request that it be lifted. Gags have to be narrowly defined, so you can carefully reveal things that fall outside the narrow order. The problem with screwing with an alphabet agency is that they can bury you with new paper just because you pissed them off. It's OK to play hardball in your defense, just stay within the foul lines.
    How can the person actually affected by this gag order -- the person that is the target of it -- go to court to have it lifted if they don't know about it and no one is allowed to tell you of it.  

    Now, the company that was served the request in the first place - would respond to it - and then for the most part they would be done with it as far as they are concerned... this company is not acting as your solicitor - and has no interest in following up 3 years down the line.... 

    Which is why I come back to the fact that yes, sometimes such gag orders are required as a matter of fact -- and are not new... [you don't actually tell the people you get a warrant to tap their phone - hey we are listening in on your phone] BUT there needs to be a time limit placed on them to force a periodic review on whether the investigation is ongoing or not and if it is not ongoing there is no longer a requirement to keep the information private anymore.

    The other option, which is a more expensive option, is that in the case of a gag order / national letter etc. that a court must appoint a lawyer to represent your interests (and not the governments) [and pay the private lawyer's fees; since you are not given the option to] with respects to the letter, the gag order and potentially periodic review of the case.
    edited July 2017 Ofer
  • Reply 12 of 32
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,799member
    lkrupp said:
    Yet another reason why California should secede. Washington's bullying tactics and outdated laws coupled with the IRS's shortsighted tax laws are counter productive California's innovative culture.
    Get a grip on yourself.
    Going by their policy history, and business & cultural climate, I'd rather have California rule that Virginia/DC rule. 
    There is no viable path what-so-ever for California to secede from the Union. Read the damn Constitution. It does not provide for secession of a state from the Union, only joining the Union. There is also no currently viable path for the Electoral College to be replaced with direct election of the President either. Again, read the Constitution on what it takes to amend it. An amendment requires a two thirds majority in both the House and the Senate. Then three fourths of State Legislatures must approve or a Constitutional Convention called which has never happened in modern times. There is NO constitutional path to secession other than by force, meaning a second Civil War and California doesn’t have an army. And it doesn’t matter how many Californians sign a petition to secede. Such a petition is meaningless and carries no legal weight. Californians do not get to decide or vote on seceding from the United States.

    So quit daydreaming about such nonsense and work to change things in Washington. It’s the only way.
    edited July 2017 gatorguymobirdtallest skil
  • Reply 13 of 32
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,110member
    lkrupp said:
    lkrupp said:
    Yet another reason why California should secede. Washington's bullying tactics and outdated laws coupled with the IRS's shortsighted tax laws are counter productive California's innovative culture.
    Get a grip on yourself.
    Going by their policy history, and business & cultural climate, I'd rather have California rule that Virginia/DC rule. 
    There is no viable path what-so-ever for California to secede from the Union. Read the damn Constitution. It does not provide for secession of a state from the Union, only joining the Union. There is also no currently viable path for the Electoral College to be replaced with direct election of the President either. Again, read the Constitution on what it takes to amend it.
    You seem to be confused, I never suggested otherwise. Or you're having an episode. I just commented to the affirmative of why I like CA's way of doing things (policy) better than the typical bozos in DC. CA is driving so much of this nation's output, from technology to entertainment to environment to civil rights...as a state their policies seem to be working well for the betterment of their citizens. CA-based tech and entertainment as basically our ambassadors to the entire world.
    edited July 2017
  • Reply 14 of 32
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,011moderator
    lkrupp said:
    lkrupp said:
    Yet another reason why California should secede. Washington's bullying tactics and outdated laws coupled with the IRS's shortsighted tax laws are counter productive California's innovative culture.
    Get a grip on yourself.
    Going by their policy history, and business & cultural climate, I'd rather have California rule that Virginia/DC rule. 
    There is no viable path what-so-ever for California to secede from the Union. Read the damn Constitution. It does not provide for secession of a state from the Union, only joining the Union. There is also no currently viable path for the Electoral College to be replaced with direct election of the President either. Again, read the Constitution on what it takes to amend it.
    You seem to be confused, I never suggested otherwise. Or you're having an episode. I just commented to the affirmative of why I like CA's way of doing things (policy) better than the typical bozos in DC. CA is driving so much of this nation's output, from technology to entertainment to environment to civil rights...as a state their policies seem to be working well for the betterment of their citizens. CA-based tech and entertainment as basically our ambassadors to the entire world.
    lkrupp said:
    lkrupp said:
    Yet another reason why California should secede. Washington's bullying tactics and outdated laws coupled with the IRS's shortsighted tax laws are counter productive California's innovative culture.
    Get a grip on yourself.
    Going by their policy history, and business & cultural climate, I'd rather have California rule that Virginia/DC rule. 
    There is no viable path what-so-ever for California to secede from the Union. Read the damn Constitution. It does not provide for secession of a state from the Union, only joining the Union. There is also no currently viable path for the Electoral College to be replaced with direct election of the President either. Again, read the Constitution on what it takes to amend it.
    You seem to be confused, I never suggested otherwise. Or you're having an episode. I just commented to the affirmative of why I like CA's way of doing things (policy) better than the typical bozos in DC. CA is driving so much of this nation's output, from technology to entertainment to environment to civil rights...as a state their policies seem to be working well for the betterment of their citizens. CA-based tech and entertainment as basically our ambassadors to the entire world.
    Has CA created the business culture responsible for companies like Apple?  Is there a verifiable cause and effect relationship regarding this?  If so, I'd love to have that detailed, showing precisely the differences that exist in CA relative to other states.  MA has a high-tech hub too, maybe CA could be contrasted with that state to explicitly draw out its business climate advantages.  But from what I can see, I'd pin any advantage CA might have in attracting entrpenuers, who are by nature very mobile elements, versus MA, on CA's superior weather and natural beauty.  That's not something its government leaders could viably lay claim to creating.  
    edited July 2017 williamlondon
  • Reply 15 of 32
    bkkcanuckbkkcanuck Posts: 854member
    The high tech hubs and the culture that surrounds the startups that have created tech giants have more to do with a few specific educational institutions where the best and the brightest get their start -- than any government.  If MIT, Stanford, etc. had been located in Florida we would be talking about Florida as the centre of this instead of MA and CA.
  • Reply 16 of 32
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    volcan said:
    the 435 member US house of representatives.
    That needs to be expanded. Given the US population, the House should have nearly 1000 representatives at this point.
    CA is driving so much of this nation’s output… …civil rights…
    Yeah, who needs that pesky first amendment? Or second amendment? Or fourth amendment? Or fifth amendment? Or sixth amendment? Or seventh amendment? Et fucking cetera.
    …their policies seem to be working well for the betterment of their citizens. …ambassadors to the entire world.
    That’s funnier than televised comedians. Holy cow.
    edited July 2017 designr
  • Reply 17 of 32
    longpathlongpath Posts: 217member
    longpath said:
    In so doing, the court is acquiescing to the Legislative and Executive branches, rather than serving the adversarial role the Founders envisioned. This is not the first time the Courts have done so, with such abridgment of the Bill of Rights going back well over a century, so it's hardly a surprise. The surprise is that the American people continue to tolerate it.
    Sounds like you're saying the courts are required to oppose anything proposed by the legislative and executive, otherwise they are not doing their job. Regardless of the merits of this case, that just makes no sense. 
    Where did I say required?!? If you are unfamiliar with the debates between the Federalists and the AntiFederalists, or the idea of checks and balances, I can’t help you. The courts are supposed to uphold the Constitution, not perform legal limbo contests to allow blatant violations of the Bill of Rights.
    tallest skilwilliamlondon
  • Reply 18 of 32
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    longpath said:
    The courts are supposed to uphold the Constitution…
    I’m not one to call for the expansion of government power, but the concept of “judicial activism” needs to be redefined as treason.
  • Reply 19 of 32
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,246member
    Adversarial is not in the Constitution, only independent. You are taking the court to task for not ruling the way you wanted them to. No matter which way they rules the losing party will be aggrieved. Sounds like they are independent to me.
    edited July 2017 williamlondon
  • Reply 20 of 32
    designrdesignr Posts: 464member
    lkrupp said:
    lkrupp said:
    Yet another reason why California should secede. Washington's bullying tactics and outdated laws coupled with the IRS's shortsighted tax laws are counter productive California's innovative culture.
    Get a grip on yourself.
    Going by their policy history, and business & cultural climate, I'd rather have California rule that Virginia/DC rule. 
    There is no viable path what-so-ever for California to secede from the Union. Read the damn Constitution. It does not provide for secession of a state from the Union, only joining the Union.
    I imagine there were, at that time, people who thought and said the same thing about seceding from Great Britain.
    bkkcanuck
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