Judge rules for ACLU on PATRIOT provision



Federal Judge Janet Hall ruled today that the FBI lift a gag order that prevented librarians who received FBI demands for records from speaking out about the Patriot Act. The decision has been stayed until September 20, pending appeal.

This is the second time that the American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the National Security Letter (NSL) provision of the act. In the first round, courts ruled the entire provision unconstitutional.

"The [National Security Letter] statute has the practical effect of silencing those who have the most intimate knowledge of the statute's effect and a strong interest in advocating against the federal government's broad investigative powers," wrote Judge Hall.

Papers filed in the case (Doe v. Gonzales,) show that the unnamed organization represented by the ACLU is a member of the American Library Association and possesses "a wide array of sensitive information about library patrons, including information about the reading materials borrowed by library patrons and about Internet usage by library patrons."

"Today, the judiciary's role was reaffirmed in the government's war on terror," Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said in a press release. "Seizing library and Internet records without judicial authorization offends most Americans, regardless of political ideology. We can be safe without sacrificing our most basic civil liberties."