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September 27, 2007
Patriot Act Provisions Voided by Lower Federal Court
In a development that some see as a victory for civil liberties and others view as a blow to homeland security, a federal judge in Oregon has voided two provisions of the Patriot Act having to do with the ability of the executive branch to carry out surveillance and searches without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment:
For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law -- with unparalleled success," Aiken wrote in a strongly worded 44-page opinion. This ruling follows another court case decided in favor of the plaintiffs earlier this month where the FBI's ability to gather emails and telephone data from private companies without a warrant was also found to be unconstitutional.
"A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised." ...
Aiken's ruling came in the case of Brandon Mayfield, a lawyer who was arrested and jailed for two weeks in 2004 after the FBI bungled a fingerprint match and mistakenly linked him to a terrorist attack in Spain. The FBI used its expanded powers under the Patriot Act to secretly search Mayfield's house and law office, copy computer files and photos, tape his telephone conversations, and place surveillance bugs in his office using warrants issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Slowly but surely, all the tools Congress granted the executive branch to go after terrorists in this country are being eviscerated by civil liberties absolutists. No one is seriously arguing that civil liberties aren't important whether we are at war or not. But to cut the legs off from underneath the Patriot Act will no doubt lead to a lessening of our ability to protect ourselves from terrorist attacks.
"The Constitution is not a suicide pact," wrote Justice Robert Jackson in 1949. Evidently, some federal judges want to test that theory - at our expense.