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Court allows ISP to discuss national security order after 11-year court battle

Nicholas Merrill, the owner of a small internet service provider sent a National Security Letter in 2004, has had a gag order against him fully lifted, following a drawn-out legal battle with the feds.

The government has 90 days to appeal

A National Security Letter, or NSL, demands information from the recipient and often bars them from speaking about or acknowledging the letter. After receiving an NSL from the FBI in 2004, Merrill challenged the order, refusing to comply with the request for information and arguing against the gag order.

Although the demand for information was eventually dropped, Merrill continued to fight the gag order. In 2010, a court ruled that he could reveal that he had received the order, but did not fully lift the gag. In a ruling yesterday, a US District Court judge sided with Merrill, fully lifting the order and allowing him to discuss the NSL, the first time since the Patriot At was passed that such an order has been fully lifted.

"Judge Marrero's decision vindicates the public's right to know how the FBI uses warrantless surveillance to peer into our digital lives," Merrill said in a statement. "I hope today's victory will finally allow Americans to engage in an informed debate about proper the scope of the government's warrantless surveillance powers."

Merrill won't be able to talk about the order just yet — the government has 90 days to appeal, after which Merrill will be free to openly discuss the NSL.