Federal appeals court questions Patriot Act secrecy requirements

[JURIST] A federal appeals panel has indicated that it might require the government to allow libraries, major corporations and other groups to challenge FBI demands for records under the USA Patriot Act [PDF text; JURIST news archive]. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] on Wednesday heard arguments in two cases concerning the federal government's secrecy requirements. In the first case, a federal judge in Connecticut ruled [JURIST report] that a gag order shielding the identity of librarians who had received an FBI demand for records, or national security letter [PDF form letter]; ACLU backgrounder], about library patrons prevented the plaintiffs from participating in public debate on the Patriot Act. In the second case, a federal judge in New York ruled that FBI national security letters constitute unreasonable searches and seizures and therefore violate the Constitution. Two judges on the three-judge appellate panel indicated that they were bothered by the secrecy requirements and suggested that they could spell out legal avenues for anyone subjected to the government's probes. AP has more. The Hartford Courant has local coverage.

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