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Column: How the Patriot Act Stripped Me of My Free-Speech Rights

By Nicholas Merrill
Washington Post

Sometime in 2012, I will begin the ninth year of my life under an FBI gag order, which began when I received what is known as a national security letter at the small Internet service provider I owned. On that day in 2004 (the exact date is redacted from court papers, so I can’t reveal it), an FBI agent came to my office and handed me a letter. It demanded that I turn over information about one of my clients and forbade me from telling “any person” that the government had approached me.

National security letters are issued by the FBI, not a judge, to obtain phone, computer, and banking information. Instead of complying, I spoke with a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union and filed a constitutional challenge against the NSL provision of the Patriot Act, which was signed into law 10 years ago Wednesday.

A decade later, much of the government’s surveillance policy remains shrouded in secrecy, making it impossible for the American public to engage in a meaningful debate on the effectiveness or wisdom of various practices.

To read full column click here.


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