Doe v. Gonzales

Decision Date06 September 2007
Docket NumberNo. 04 Civ. 2614(VM).,04 Civ. 2614(VM).
Citation500 F.Supp.2d 379
PartiesJohn DOE, American Civil Liberties Union, and American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Plaintiffs, v. Alberto GONZALES, in his official capacity as Attorney General of the United States; Robert Mueller, in his official capacity as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Valerie E. Caproni, in her official capacity as General Counsel to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York

MARRERO, District Judge.

                TABLE OF CONTENTS
                PAGE
                I.  INTRODUCTION ......................................................................385
                
                II.  BACKGROUND ........................................................................387
                      A.  SECTION 2709 ..................................................................387
                      B.  DOE I .........................................................................388
                      C.  THE REVISED NONDISCLOSURE PROVISION ...........................................388
                      D.  THE FBI'S USE OF NSLs .........................................................389
                      E.  PLACING NSLs ISSUED UNDER § 2709 IN CONTEXT ...................................392
                          1.  Administrative Subpoenas ..................................................392
                          2.  Pen Registers, Wiretaps, and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance ............392
                          3.  Secrecy in Grand Jury Proceedings .........................................394
                III.  DISCUSSION ........................................................................395
                      A.  STANDARD OF REVIEW ............................................................396
                      B.  STANDING ......................................................................396
                      C.  STRICT SCRUTINY ...............................................................396
                      D.  PROCEDURAL SAFEGUARDS .........................................................399
                          1.  The Freedman Safeguards ...................................................399
                          2.  Application of Freedman ...................................................401
                          3.  The NSL Statute Fails to Satisfy Freedman .................................405
                      E.  DISCRETION ....................................................................406
                      F.  PRESCRIBING THE STANDARD OF JUDICIAL REVIEW ...................................409
                          1.  Congress Cannot Legislate a Standard of Review at Odds with First
                                Amendment Jurisprudence .................................................409
                              a.  Historical Context of Checks and Balances and Separation of
                                    Powers ..............................................................409
                              b.  Application of the Principles Separation of Powers ....................411
                              c.  Prospective Concerns ..................................................413
                          2.  The Review Prescribed by § 3511(b) Does Not Comport with First
                                Amendment Jurisprudence .................................................416
                      G.  NARROW TAILORING ..............................................................419
                      H.  SCOPE OF 18 U.S.C. §§ 3511(d) AND 3511(e) .....................................422
                          1.  Closure of Hearings and Sealing of Records ................................422
                          2.  Consideration of Ex Parte and In Camera Evidence ..........................423
                      I.  SEVERANCE .....................................................................424
                 IV.  CONCLUSION ........................................................................425
                  V.  STAY OF JUDGMENT ..................................................................425
                 VI.  ORDER .............................................................................425
                
I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs John Doe, American Civil Liberties Union, and American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (collectively, "Plaintiffs") initially brought this case in 2004, challenging the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C. § 2709, amended by the USA Patriot Act (the "Patriot Act"), Pub.L. No. 107-56, 115 Stat. 272 (Oct. 26, 2001) (" § 2709"). Section 2709 was originally enacted as part of Title II of the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986 ("ECPA"), Pub.L. No. 99-508, § 201, 100 Stat. 1848, 1867-68 (1986), and governs the issuance of National Security Letters ("NSLs") by the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") to wire and electronic communication service providers ("ECSPs"). This Court, in a lengthy decision dated September 28, 2004, granted Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and declared § 2709 unconstitutional on its face, under the First and Fourth Amendments. See Doe v. Ashcroft, 334 F.Supp.2d 471 (S.D.N.Y.2004) ("Doe I"). "Considering the implications of its ruling and the importance of the issues involved," the Court stayed enforcement of its judgment pending appeal. See id. at 526.

Shortly after this Court's decision, a court in the District of Connecticut enjoined the Government from enforcing the nondisclosure requirement of § 2709(c) insofar as it prevented the plaintiff in that case from revealing its identity as a recipient of an NSL, holding that § 2709(c) failed to satisfy strict scrutiny because it was not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. See Doe v. Gonzales, 386 F.Supp.2d 66, 82 (D.Conn.2005) ("Doe II").

While appeals in Doe I and Doe II were pending, Congress passed the USA Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005, Pub.L. No. 109-477, 120 Stat. 192 (Mar. 9, 2006) (the "Reauthorization Act."). The Reauthorization Act effectuated substantial changes to § 2709 and added several provisions relating to judicial review of NSLs which were codified at 18 U.S.C. § 3511 ("§ 3511").1 As a result of these amendments, the Second Circuit remanded the Doe I appeal to enable this Court, if the parties were to continue the litigation in light of the amendments to the statute, to consider the validity of the revised § 2709(c) and the new procedures codified in § 3511. See Doe v. Gonzales, 449 F.3d 415, 419 (2d Cir.2006).2

Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint and have moved for summary judgment,3 seeking a declaratory judgment that the amended nondisclosure provision of § 2709(c) and § 3511(b) are unconstitutional on their face and as applied under the First Amendment and the principle of separation of powers, and that § 3511(d) and (e) are unconstitutional on their face under the First and Fifth Amendments. Defendants Alberto Gonzales, Robert Mueller, and Valerie E. Caproni4 (collectively, the "Government") have cross-moved for dismissal of the complaint or, in the alternative, summary judgment. Having reviewed the briefs submitted by the parties, as well as the briefs submitted by amicus curiae in support of Plaintiffs' motion,5 and having heard oral arguments, the Court finds that several aspects of the revised nondisclosure provision of the NSL statute violate the First Amendment and the principle of separation of powers. The Court therefore holds that §§ 2709(c) and 3511(b) are facially unconstitutional. However, the statutory provisions governing hearings, proceedings, and judicial review of evidence related to a challenge to an NSL, §§ 3511(d) and (e) respectively, are constitutional. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, and the Government's cross-motion for dismissal or summary judgment is DENIED.

II. BACKGROUND
A. SECTION 2709

The FBI is authorized by § 2709 to issue NSLs requesting a range of information about an ECSP's subscribers and their telephone or internet activity. Section 2709(a) states that an ECSP "shall comply" with a request for "subscriber information and toll billing records information, or electronic communication transactional records" made by the FBI. 18 U.S.C. § 2709(a). Section 2709(b) requires that, in order for the FBI to request "the name, address, length of service, and local and long distance toll billing records" of a person or entity, the Director of the FBI, or his designee, must certify that such information is "relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."6 18 U.S.C. § 2709(b).

As the Court noted in Doe I, "the statute's reference to `transactional records' creates ambiguity regarding the scope of the information required to be produced by the NSL recipient." 334 F.Supp.2d at 507. That ambiguity is compounded because the NSL directs the recipient to determine for itself whether any information it maintains regarding the target of the NSL "may be considered ... to be an electronic communication transaction record" in accordance with § 2709, but not "contents" of communications within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 2510(8).7 Such information might include the "to," "from," "date," and "time" fields of all emails sent or received, activity logs indicating dates and times that the target accessed the internet, the contents of queries made to search engines, and histories of websites visited. See generally Jonathan Zittrain, Searches and Seizures in a Networked World, 119 Harv. L.Rev. F. 83 (2005). Information requested by NSLs issued pursuant to § 2709 can also reveal the identity of an internet user associated with a certain email address, Internet Protocol address,8 or screen name.

B. DOE I

Although familiarity with the Court's decision in Doe I is presumed, a brief review of that decision is useful in order to emphasize the conclusions the Court previously reached in this action, as well as to put in proper context the deficiencies in the prior version of § 2709 that Congress attempted to remedy in enacting the substantial revisions embodied in the ...

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