A federal judge today ruled that the FBI must lift a gag that is preventing an organization with library records from participating in the Patriot Act debate. The opinion comes in a case brought by the ACLU challenging a provision of the Patriot Act that authorizes the FBI to demand records without judicial review.
"We are extremely pleased that the court has recognized that gagging our client from participating in the Patriot Act debate violates the First Amendment and is profoundly undemocratic," said Ann Beeson, ACLU Associate Legal Director and the lead attorney in the case. "Today's ruling makes clear that the government cannot silence innocent Americans simply by invoking national security."
The decision marks the second time a federal court has dealt a blow to the National Security Letter (NSL) provision of the Patriot Act, which authorizes the FBI to demand a range of personal records such as the identity of a person who has checked out books from a library or engaged in anonymous speech on the Internet. The first ruling, which also came in a case brought by the ACLU, found that the entire NSL provision was unconstitutional.
In last week's decision, which has been stayed until September 20 to allow the government to appeal, U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall held that the "John Doe" organization has a First Amendment right to engage in the "current and lively debate in this country over the renewal of the PATRIOT Act."
TAKE ACTION: Urge Attorney General Gonzales to lift the gag on the Patriot Act debate. Sign the ACLU petition.