A federal judge today announced that a hearing scheduled tomorrow in the American Civil Liberties Union's challenge to a provision of the Patriot Act will be open to the public, RAW STORY has learned.
The ACLU is seeking an emergency court order to lift a gag imposed by the FBI so that its client can participate in the public debate about the Patriot Act as Congress prepares to reauthorize or amend it in September. The Patriot Act provisions can gag those challenging it from even speaking publicly about their case.
The lawsuit challenges the National Security Letter (NSL) provision of the Patriot Act, which authorizes the FBI to demand a range of personal records without court approval, such as the identity of a person who has visited a particular Web site on a library computer, or who has engaged in anonymous speech on the Internet. The Patriot Act dramatically expands the NSL power by permitting the FBI to demand records of people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit in Connecticut on behalf of an organization that 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." Because of the gag order, the ACLU is currently unable to identify the client in the case.
More information on this case, including a redacted version of the complaint, is available online at www.aclu.org/nsl.