”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.”
Amendment IV of the Constitution of the United States of America
Wanna bet? Here's a dirty little secret about just how far the government can go when it wants to.
There's some little jerk in the FBI
keepin' papers on me, six feet high
It gets me down, it gets me down.
Excerpt from The Rolling Stones tune called "Fingerprint File"
A National Security Letter (NSL) is an offshoot of the USA Patriot Act that seems to violate each and every stipulation outlined in the fourth amendment. It allows certain law enforcement officials (mainly the FBI) to require that certain institutions or, in some cases, individuals turn over information about other institutions or (mostly) individuals without any due process, warrants, subpoenas or probable cause.
They then issue a gag order on the recipient of the NSL that makes it a federal offense if they disclose the receipt or the contents of the letter to anyone. By anyone, I mean anyone. The list includes just about anybody you can think of such as lawyers, teachers, priests, judges, hairdressers, doctors, dentists, mechanics, paperboys and even your own spouse or family members. Shit, I don't think you're even allowed to tell your pets.
To put it simply, if you’ve ever been to the hospital, had a bank account, logged on to a computer, mailed something through the post office, had a telephone, drove a car, went for a walk or stuck your head out the window for a breath of fresh air, the FBI can request information about you without you ever knowing it and without the receiving institution disclosing it.
In 2004 a trial was held in the Southern District of New York that went by the name of Doe v. Ashcroft that ruled the use of NSL’s was unconstitutional and in direct violation of both Amendment I and Amendment IV of the Constitution. The government subsequently appealed the decision and in 2006 the case was dismissed as being “moot”.
I guess you CAN have your cake and eat it too.
According to Fox News, the FBI and other federal agencies have issued over 350,000 NSL’s without having to appear before the courts in order to get a search warrant. I don’t know where they got that number from since I couldn’t confirm it anywhere on the internet. I wonder why that might be?
Anyway, in a rare moment for me, for once I agree with Fox and their opinion page. See Judge Andrew P. Napolitano’s take on the matter here for more info.
A note to our head honcho:
“Hey Jay, if you get something in the mail or somebody comes knocking on your door and it’s about yours truly, I’ll understand whatever action you decide to take. If I have to, I’ll take one for the team.”
Or, maybe I already have and just don't know it.
Later that same day:
Whoa, it looks like I’m gonna be ok and some sense of sanity has prevailed. While doing further research I was pleased to discover that a federal judge in San Francisco has determined that the “gag order” portion of the NSL is unconstitutional and has ordered that the FBI cease and desist issuing anymore letters. That’s the upside. The downside is the judge “stayed” her own ruling for 90 days or until the government decides to appeal.
I have a gut feeling that that’s just what they’re going to do.
Besides the link to the article I mentioned before, you can also take a look at what Wiki has to say