Internet firm owner tells of chagrin at FBI security letter
By Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post | August 15, 2010
WASHINGTON - For six years, Nicholas Merrill has lived in a surreal world of half-truths in which he could not tell his fiancee, his closest friends, or even his mother that he is John Doe, the man who filed the first-ever court challenge to the FBI's ability to obtain personal data on Americans without judicial approval.
Friends mentioned the case when it was in the news, and the normally outspoken Merrill would change the subject.
He heard the arguments at the federal courthouse, and in an out-of-body moment he realized that no one knew he was the plaintiff challenging the FBI's authority to issue national security letters, as they are known, and its ability to impose a gag on the recipient.
Now, after the partial lifting of his gag order last month as a result of an FBI settlement, Merrill, 37, can speak openly for the first time about the experience, although he cannot disclose the full scope of the data demanded.