Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Public Relations and the Fourth Amendment

Fourth Amendment
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.

Internet Archive founder breaks gag order, detailing FBI's secret demand for user's personal information and the resulting lawsuit challenging the subpoena
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has withdrawn a secret demand that the Internet Archive, an online library, provide the agency with a user's personal information after the Web site challenged the records request in court.

The FBI sent a national security letter, or NSL, to the Internet Archive in November and included a gag order barring site founder Brewster Kahle from talking to anyone other than his lawyers about the request. Kahle, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit to challenge the subpoena, arguing that the NSL program is unconstitutional, and the FBI withdrew the NSL on April 22.

The settlement between the FBI and the Internet Archive allowed Kahle to break the gag order, a standard part of an NSL request. The Internet Archive's challenge of the NSL is only the third case that the ACLU is aware of in which an NSL has been challenged in court, said Melissa Goodman an attorney for the civil liberties group's National Security Project.

Resisting a request for information from the federal government is an extremely serious matter. In general I would advise against it in the strongest possible terms. However, there comes a time when it is painfully obvious that the government is abusing its power. Others, more gifted that I, will speak to the political, constitutional, and moral, aspects, of this case. I will confine myself to the PR of such resistance. By this act, the Internet Archive has established itself as the faithful keeper of information and its proper use. It's conduct stands in stark contrast to the shameful conduct of Telecommunications companies.

Peabody and Sherman would be proud.

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