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Boiling Frogs: Nick Merrill, Another Innocent Victim of the Patriot Act

Nick Merrill describes his 6-year ordeal after receiving an FBI National Security Letter, enabled by the Patriot Act. As co-host Sibel Edmonds points out, only 5 people have brought legal challenges to more than 250,000 NSL’s since 9/11. Nick (Nicholas) Merrill joins us to recount his ‘surreal’ experience as the first American to stand up and challenge the FBI’s National Security Letters, living under FBI gag orders for the past six years, and being identified only as ‘John Doe’ in court documents. Merrill relates what made him resist the FBI order, and discusses the unconstitutionality of these practices- government warrantless surveillance and searches, and violations of Americans’ liberties and privacy. He talks about the implications of the issuance of 50000 FBI national security letters per year seeking information on ordinary Americans and US businesses, our nation’s descent towards a police state, the importance of speaking out and resisting these government practices that violate our constitutional rights, our moral obligation to protect our liberties and privacy as a nation, his goals to raise public awareness on these issues, and ways to deal with them through his recently established nonprofit organization, and more!
Nick Merrill is the founder of Calyx Internet Access and the Calyx Institute. He was the first person to file a constitutional challenge against the National Security Letters statute in the USA PATRIOT Act. After receiving a National Security Letter from the FBI, he sued the FBI and DOJ and became the plaintiff in the lawsuit Doe v. Ashcroft filed on behalf of a formerly unknown ISP owner by the ACLU against the U.S. federal government. Mr. Merrill never complied with the FBI’s NSL request, and eventually – several years into the lawsuit – the FBI decided it no longer wanted the information it had demanded and dropped its demand for records. However for several years after dropping the demand, the FBI continued to prevent him from publicly speaking about the NSL, or even from being publicly identified as the recipient of the NSL. Because National Security Letters are accompanied by an open-ended, life-long gag order, Merrill was unable to be identified in court papers as the plaintiff in the case and instead was referred to as “John Doe”. In 2010, after more than 6 years, Nick Merrill was partially released from his gag order and allowed to reveal his identity, although he still cannot reveal what information the FBI sought from him.