Nicholas Merill, First to Challenge National Security Letter (NSL), Sues US Gov’t to Release Gag Order 10 Years On



Ellen Nakashima/WashingtonPost:

A New York man who ran a small Internet company has sued the Justice Department to lift a 10-year-old gag order that accompanied a national security order served on him by the FBI for a customer’s records.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday, Nicholas Merrill charged that the U.S. government has violated his First Amendment rights by imposing what he says amounts to a permanent gag order forbidding him from speaking about a national security letter he received in 2004 (PDF) — even though the underlying investigation has apparently ended.


National security letters (NSLs) are a form of administrative subpoena issued by the FBI in national security investigations without court approval. In particular, Merrill wants to be able to talk about the specific types of records the government demanded that he disclose, which he refused to do.

The NSL non-disclosure provision bars him from…

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