Privacy4Patriots Applauds Judge’s Decision Making FBI “National Security” Letters Unconstitutional

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The FBI has been sending “national security” letters to banks, phone companies, Internet providers and other companies for years now, demanding information about those companies’ customers and usually barring the recipients from disclosing that they’ve received the letters. Privacy4Patriots supports a judge’s recent decision to declare those letters unconstitutional.

Judge Susan Illston said that the letters...violate the First Amendment and the separation of powers principles.

According to Fox News and other media outlets, a federal judge this past week struck down a set of laws allowing the FBI to seek people’s records without court approval. These “national security” letters have been sent since the 1980s by the FBI to a wide variety of companies including banks, phone companies, Internet providers and other businesses.

Strengthened by the passing of the USA Patriot Act following the 9/11 attacks, the letters have increased in volume, with 16,511 being sent requesting information regarding 7,201 people in 2011 alone, according to the Fox News article. In Case No. C 11-02173 SI, Judge Susan Illston of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said that the letters, which almost always bar the recipients from disclosing to anyone that they’ve received the demands (including the targeted customers), violate the First Amendment and the separation of powers principles.

Privacy4Patriots, the publisher of an upcoming report on how to protect one's privacy, applauds the judge’s decision and her statement that the government has failed to show that the letters and non-disclosure policy “serve the compelling need of national security.”

The company, which also wants people to enjoy privacy while surfing the Internet – including avoiding being tracked by Google – offers 3 simple steps below:

  •     Turn off cookies in the browser. These little pieces of computer code are the primary method for tracking a user’s preferences.
  •     Tell Google not to track searches. Log into Google and then go to, where preferences can be set.
  •     Use an anonymous browser that won’t track user actions or relate personal information to websites. The best is Tor Browser Bundle, which routes traffic through its network so that sites and advertisers can’t track the user. This may slow down browsing a bit. Another is SRWARE Iron, the same software platform as Google Chrome without the Google bots tracking every move.

Check out this blog post on how easy it is for a U.S. citizen to go on the government’s watch list.

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Frank Bates
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