Twitter today published redacted versions of two National Security Letters (NSLs) that it received from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the past two years.
Typically these information requests are under gag order, meaning that recipients can’t even disclose the existence of them to their users or the people who are targeted by the requests. But FBI “recently informed us that the gag orders have been lifted and that we may notify the account holders,” Elizabeth Banker, associate general counsel for global law enforcement at Twitter, wrote in a blog post.
The move comes a few weeks after Cloudflare published a redacted NSL that it received in 2013, and Google in December posted eight it had received. This is the first time Twitter is indicating that it has been served NSLs.
One NSL, drafted in September 2015 by Michelle Klimt, special agent in charge of FBI’s Jacksonville, Florida division, sought information on a single account from December 1, 2014, up until the present. The other, which is dated June 10, 2016 and came from Michael Anderson, acting special agent in charge at FBI’s Houston division, demanded information for an account “from inception to present.” (The term “present” means the date that the recipient processes the NSL.)
Both were addressed to Twitter general counsel Vijaya Gadde. And both letters asked for the names, addresses, length of services, and “electronic communications transactional records for all services” for the account holders in question, whose identities are redacted.
“We continue to believe that reporting in government-mandated bands does not provide meaningful transparency to the public or those using our service,” Banker wrote. “However, the government argues that any numerical reporting more detailed than the bands in the USA Freedom Act would be classified and as such not protected by the First Amendment. They further argue that Twitter is not entitled to obtain information from the government about the processes followed in classifying a version [of] Twitter’s 2013 Transparency Report or in classifying/declassifying decisions associated with the allowed bands. We would like a meaningful opportunity to challenge government restrictions when ‘classification’ prevents speech on issues of public importance.”
In October Twitter said it had 317 million monthly active users.