Executive Power

California District Court Enjoins Issuance of National Security Letters

By Steve Vladeck
Friday, March 15, 2013, 4:48 PM

This could be a very big deal... Judge Susan Illston of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has issued a 24-page opinion striking down 18 U.S.C. §§ 2709(c) and 3511(b)--the provisions that prohibit the recipients of "national security letters" from disclosing the fact that they received an NSL (or the contents thereof) and that provide recipients with a minimal opportunity to seek judicial review of NSLs, respectively--on First Amendment and separation of powers grounds. (Kim Zetter from Wired has more details here; Jen Valentino-DeVries published a very long story on the background to this case last summer in the Wall Street Journal.)

Judge Illston's injunction (which she stayed for 90 days to allow the government to pursue an appeal) bars the government from "issuing NSLs under § 2709 or from enforcing the nondisclosure provision in this or any other case."

I hope to have more to say on the merits of Judge Illston's analysis over the weekend. For now, though, wow...