The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a remarkable letter (PDF) this morning in which the Department of Justice admits its lawyer misled a panel of judges during oral arguments last month over the legality of National Security Letters, or NSLs.
To the surprise of some observers, during his rebuttal, Justice Department lawyer Douglas Letter told the three judges that recipients of NSLs could, in fact, speak about the letters in general terms. They could discuss the fact that they had received a letter and could engage in public debate about the "quality" of the NSLs they had received, he said.
But actually, they can't. Letter's statements contradicted longstanding policy, and EFF apparently asked the DOJ for clarification. The result is that DOJ has sent a note to the Clerk of Court for the 9th Circuit to correct the error, clearing up "an inadvertent misstatement by government counsel during the rebuttal portion of the argument."