Ellen Nakashima reports:
For six years, Nicholas Merrill has lived in a surreal world of half-truths, where he could not tell even his fiancee, his closest friends or 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.
On a cold February day in 2004, an FBI agent pulled an envelope out of his trench coat and handed it to Merrill, who ran an Internet startup called Calyx in New York. At the time, like most Americans, he had no idea what a national security letter was.
The letter requested that Merrill provide 16 categories of “electronic communication transactional records,” including e-mail address, account number and billing information. Most of the other categories remain redacted by the FBI.