Hear that search engines and social networking sites (like MySpace)? Scream it from the rooftops (NYT). Snip:
A federal judge yesterday struck down the parts of the recently revised USA Patriot Act that authorized the Federal Bureau of Investigation to use informal secret demands called national security letters to compel companies to provide customer records.
The law allowed the F.B.I. not only to force communications companies, including telephone and Internet providers, to turn over the records without court authorization, but also to forbid the companies to tell the customers or anyone else what they had done. Under the law, enacted last year, the ability of the courts to review challenges to the ban on disclosures was quite limited.
The judge, Victor Marrero of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, ruled that the measure violated the First Amendment and the separation of powers guarantee.
Judge Marrero said he feared that the law could be the first step in a series of intrusions into the judiciary’s role that would be “the legislative equivalent of breaking and entering, with an ominous free pass to the hijacking of constitutional values.”
According to a report from the Justice Department’s inspector general in March, the F.B.I. issued about 143,000 requests through national security letters from 2003 to 2005. The report found that the bureau had often used the letters improperly and sometimes illegally.