According to a host of online media sources including The Star Online, on Friday, United States District Court Judge Susan Illston of the San Francisco federal court has demanded that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) discontinue its method of spying on phone and email records, as its ways of obtaining information has been deemed unconstitutional. The order is to take effect in 90 days which gives United States lawyers ample time to appeal the decision due to the measure’s significant constitutional and national security issues.
The decision by Judge Illston is a shocking defeat for President Barack Obama’s administration’s way of obtaining information about persons from companies who have individuals’ communications records. The now-deemed unconstitutional method of obtaining one’s records was a federal governmental response to fighting terrorism in the nation.
Following the September 11 attacks, the Patriot Act was passed to give the FBI the unique authority to order companies to turn over people’s telecom records without requests needing to be disclosed. With the latest move by the federal judge, National Security letters are no longer to be used to basically snoop on people. Illston’s ruling claims that tens of thousands of National Security letters are released annually while practically all of them – 97 percent of them – never mention the requests.
According to the ruling judge’s written statement on the case:
This pervasive use of nondisclosure orders, coupled with the government’s failure to demonstrate that a blanket prohibition on recipients’ ability to disclose the mere fact of receipt of an NSL is necessary to serve the compelling need of national security, creates too large a danger that speech is being unnecessarily restricted.
An Internet rights law group called the Electronic Frontier Foundation, on behalf of an unnamed telecom company, initiated the case in a lawsuit filed in 2011. According to the case, First Amendment rights have been in danger via the method in which the FBI has been obtaining individual’s records from telecom companies.