The first rule of national security letters? You can’t talk about national security letters. THUMBS UP for protecting the freedom of speech and exercising First Amendment rights! Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel for more videos from the Cato Institute.
Thanks to the PATRIOT Act, the usage of National Security Letters has been greatly expanded since 2001. These letters force recipients to turn over information and data regarding other individuals to the U.S. Government without requiring probable cause or judicial oversight. They also contain a gag order that keeps recipients from telling other people about the contents of the letter, or even that they received a letter.
Nicholas Merrill is the founder of the Calyx Institute and Calyx Internet Access. He spoke at a Cato Hill Briefing for Freshman Congressional staffers on March 20, 2011. He describes the experience of receiving a National Security Letter in 2004 and not being sure who he could talk to about it– his business partner? his lawyer?– and the ensuing seven-year battle in court. In the end, the gag order was partially lifted, allowing Merrill to reveal that he was the plaintiff in Doe (and the A.C.L.U.) v. Ashcroft. Now he travels the country speaking about National Security Letters, but still cannot reveal certain details surrounding his case.