The people who receive “national security letters” from the FBI are basically conscripted into serving as secret informers for the government. Some of those served happily comply and turn over whatever information the government is seeking, and sometimes even more. Others resent the conscription and the impact it has on their lives. Here’s an excerpt from an op-ed by Nick Merill, the president of a small internet access and consulting firm, about his experience:
Living under the gag order has been stressful and surreal. Under the threat of criminal prosecution, I must hide all aspects of my involvement in the case – including the mere fact that I received an NSL – from my colleagues, my family and my friends. When I meet with my attorneys I cannot tell my girlfriend where I am going or where I have been. I hide any papers related to the case in a place where she will not look. When clients and friends ask me whether I am the one challenging the constitutionality of the NSL statute, I have no choice but to look them in the eye and lie.
I resent being conscripted as a secret informer for the government and being made to mislead those who are close to me, especially because I have doubts about the legitimacy of the underlying investigation.
For related Cato work, go here.