Podcast Show #38

The Boiling Frogs Presents Nick Merrill

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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. Mr. Merrill relates what made him resist the FBI order, and dicusses the unconstitutionality of these practices- government warrantless surveillance and searches, and violations of American’s 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!

NMerrill 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.

Here is our guest Nick Merrill unplugged!

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  1. I do NOT think you are being ‘too cynical’. [No matter how cynical I get I just can’t keep up’ quote] Rumsfeld gets ‘Constitutional Master of the Universe’ award from decrepit Cheney [war criminal] at CPAC. Percentage of crowd to protest? 500 to 1? 1000 to 1 ?
    Secret Evidence. Given in secret. Just the government and the judge? not even allowing attorney entry//And this isn’t arena of the cynic? Of fascism? Congressional immunity for telecommunication company-information gathering device revolving door interactions, hubs and NSA rooms filtering information streams? Cynical? 82% of National Security Letters, by admission, faulty. Kafka? I think we have left that room.
    I don’t think anyone has been into the room uncle Sam wants to take us.

  2. @Remo: Thanks for the comment.

    This is an amzing story of am amazing man. It won’t get the deserved coverage by MSM because it goes against the ‘myth’ they’ve been selling. I wonder how many Americans actually know about this case (and the librarians’)?! The number won’t have more than 3 digits. You want to bet?!

  3. Great interview. Nick Merrill has performed a brave service in defending the Constitution by challenging the so-called National Security Letters in court.
    FYI, I have a minor correction: Nick said the Electronic Frontier Foundation lawsuit against AT&T was dismissed on “state secrets” grounds. Actually, the EFF case, Hepting v. AT&T–in which I was a witness– was unusual in that the judge refused to accept the government’s move to dismiss the case on those grounds, and he actually ruled that the case could go forward. The government responded by running to Congress to get a special “retroactive immunity” law passed to protect the phone companies (and thereby backhandedly protect the government itself).
    This took two years, but in the end it was Senator Obama himself and the Democratic Party leadership including Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid, who pushed through the immunity bill in mid-2008 with the eager assistance of the Republicans. It was a bipartisan effort to cover up the affair, a conspiracy of the two parties against the Constitution, and a damning indictment of the 2-party system.

  4. Edmond: Monseuir, I know you must hear this a great deal; I assure you I am innocent. Everyone must say that, I know, but I truly am.
    Dorleac: Innocent?
    Edmond: Yes.
    Dorleac: I know. I really do know.
    Edmond: You mock me?
    Dorleac: No, my dear Dantes. I know perfectly well that you are innocent. Why else would you be here? If you were truly guilty, there are a hundred prisons in France where they would lock you away. But Chateau d’If is where is they put the ones they’re ashamed of.

    Amazing. 5 people out of 1/4 million. As the Arab world comes together to throw off the yoke of tyranny, we sink deeper into it’s morass. As an illegal government act is defacto legalized through legal chicanery to jeep it from actually being RULED Illegal and Unconstitutional. What it makes ME wonder is what would happen if one of these NSL recipients just decided to say “Pound Sand!” to the government and revealed EVERY facet of THIER National Security Letter. Would Anonymous start taking down DOJ websites in THEIR defense?

  5. Nick Merrill also gave a talk at the recent 27C3 conference in Berlin, Germany last December. The youtube video link is
    “[27C3] (en) The importance of resisting Excessive Government Surveillance”

    One thing I don’t understand. An unconstitutional, like the Patriot Act, law doesn’t have the force of law and is therefore null. So why don’t more officials challenge it? State legislatures can declare it unconstitutional and thereby “nullify” it like Prof. Thomas Woods describes in his book Nullification” http://www.tomwoods.com/books/nullification

    I think a good way to fight the unconstitutional Patriot Act is for city and state governments to declare it unconstitutional and therefore not binding in their territory.

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