FBI to remove National Security Letter from Internet Archive

Civil rights groups claim victory

Neither Opshal nor any of those present at the press conference would say what information exactly was provided by the Archive to the FBI other than the fact that it was publicly available on the site. They also refused to clarify whether they were asked not to disclose that information as part of their agreement with the FBI, despite repeated questions on both counts.

According to Kahle, the Internet Archive did not and does not collect or store any personally identifiable information beyond an unverified e-mail address that patrons are asked to provide.

Even so, Opshal noted that "there was a very small amount of responsive, non-public information" that Internet Archives had in its possession which it refused to provide to the FBI. He refused to disclose what the information might have been. "We said we were unable to provide that because the NSL statute was unconstitutional and the Archive was not subject to the statute," Opshal said.

This is the first time where an NSL letter was challenged by invoking certain amendments that were made to the statute in 2006 by Congress, said Melissa Goodman, an attorney for the ACLU. Those 2006 amendments limit the FBI's ability to demand certain records from libraries using NSLs, she said.

"It is quite notable that every time someone has challenged an NSL in court, every time there has been the threat of some judicial review, the FBI has withdrawn its demand," Goodman said. In two other cases that the ACLU knows about where NSLs were challenged, the FBI has withdrawn its letters, she said.

"Putting the case in the big-picture context, NSLs basically allow the FBI to demand extremely sensitive information on innocent people, often in total secrecy without judicial review," Goodman said. She noted that the FBI served nearly 200,000 between 2003 and 2006, out of which just three have been challenged in court, she said.

In a statement posted on its Web site, the FBI maintained that NSLs were "indispensable tools" in counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations. The statement noted Internet Archive's voluntary disclosure of some public information and its refusal to disclose some information that was not public. "As part of the settlement in this case, the FBI withdrew the National Security Letter and all parties have agreed not to disclose certain portions of the NSL, as well as portions of other documents, as part of the settlement agreement," the statement said.

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