Judge Rules Part of Patriot Act Unconstitutional

In what amounts as a major blow to the secretive and questionable practices used by the Bush Administration, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero reportedly ruled against a key part of the USA Patriot Act defending the need for judicial oversight of laws and chastised Congress for passing a law that makes “far-reaching invasions of liberty” possible.

The USA Patriot Act, created after the 9/11 attacks gave broader investigative powers to law enforcement. Under the law, the FBI was allowed to issue so-called “national security letters” (NSL) to companies such as internet service providers and phone companies to demand customers phone and internet records without court supervision required for other governmental searches.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had challenged the law on behalf of an internet service provide. Judge Marrero said that there was much more at stake than questions about the national security letters. He said Congress had essentially tried to legislate how the judiciary must review challenges to the law and if done to other bills, they could ultimately all “be styled to make the validation of the law foolproof.”

After noting that the courthouse where he resides is several blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood, Judge Marrero said the Constitution was designed so that the dangers of any given moment could never justify discarding fundamental individual liberties. “When the judiciary lowers its guard on the Constitution, it opens the door to far-reaching invasions of liberty” he said.

Congress Crossed Its Boundaries

In regard to the NSL, Judge Marrera said Congress crossed its boundaries so dramatically that letting the law stand might turn an innocent legislative step into “the legislative equivalent of breaking and entering, with an ominous free pass to the hijacking of Constitutional values.”

In 2004 Judge Marrero ruled on the initial version of the Patriot Act that the NSL violate the Constitution because they amounted to unreasonable search and seizure. He found free speech violations in the nondisclosure requirement which disallowed an internet service provider from telling their customers that their records were being turned over to the government.

After his ruling in 2004 Congress revised the Patriot Act in 2005. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals directed that he review the law’s constitutionality a second time. The complete article is available from Yahoo! News. At least part of the Federal Government has some regard for what the U.S. Constitution and the people of this country stand for.

More Information Illegally Acquired by the FBI

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released documents (PDF) that expose the FBI’s habit of asking AT&T, Verizon and MCI for the “community of interest” surrounding particular customers they were investigating — their friends and the people they call too.

A report (PDF – 34mb) by the Department of Justice Inspector General Glenn Fine outlines how over several years, hundreds of requests were illegally made by the FBI under the guise of “exigent circumstances,” when there was no immediate danger of death or serious physical injury, that “the letters did not recite the factual predication necessary to invoke the emergency authority.”

The EFF article titled ‘DOJ’s “Community of Interest” letters are illegal’ does an excellent job of explaining how the FBI also violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. In a nutshell, under the NSL provision in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, the FBI would also have to ask for information about a subject’s community of interest by issuing a properly certified NSL for each person in the community.

The Bush Administration still thinks the FBI and the NSA can police themselves. After the report was issued by the Inspector General, the FBI claims they can be trusted to fix their misuse of the NSL. The President’s Homeland Security advisor pointed out that there is a ‘privacy and civil liberties officers’ and a newly created ‘compliance unit’ at the FBI — no mention of any outside oversight.

Even better, the new Protect America Act gives the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence (both appointed by the President — Attorney General Alberto Gonzales just resigned in a major mushroom cloud of controversy and the Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell blatantly lied under oath in testimony to Congress) the right to ‘certify’ broad surveillance techniques with extremely limited judicial oversight.

Fortunately Judge Marrera found the NSL unconstitutional. More and more of the illegal activities of the Bush Administration are coming to light, and still Congress and the Senate do nothing about it but give them more power to destroy the Constitution and America’s freedom. One has to seriously wonder why Congress and the Senate continue to let this abuse of power by the Bush Administration run rampant.

More information can be found below:

  • FBI further abused security letters by requesting ‘communities of interest’ article from ZDNet Government
  • DHS Data Mining System Shut Down After Privacy Slip Ups article from Wired.com
  • The Blotter: FBI Terror Watch List ‘Out of Control’ article from ABC News
  • DHS Re-Launches Watchlist Help Site After 27B Crushed the Old One – UPDATED article from Wired.com
  • F.B.I. Data Mining Reached Beyond Initial Targets article from the New York Times
  • Justice Lawyer Who Defied White House (‘The Law Required It’) article from Newsweek National News on MSNBC.com
  • Why Gonzales Finally Caved article from Time magazine
  • BBC News – Bush’s changing administration article
  • Gonzales: Did He Help Bush Keep His DUI Quiet? article from Newsweek
  • Alberto Gonzales and the Coup Against Democracy article from Global Research
  • Executive Order 13233 on Presidential Records article from the Federation of American Scientists
  • Gonzales Hospital Episode Detailed article by the Washington Post
  • Gonzales was told of FBI violations article from the Washington Post
  • TPMuckraker – Gonzales: I Only Visited Ashcroft’s Hospital Bed Because Congress Wanted It article
  • Bush insists Alberto Gonzales has done nothing wrong article from Raw Story
  • Why Bush won’t ax Gonzales article from Time Magazine
  • If the Democrats want to fire Alberto Gonzales, why give him massive new eavesdropping powers? article from Slate
  • Crooks and Liars – Alberto Gonzales article
  • Crooks and Liars – Impeach Gonzales article
  • Spy chief: Oops! FISA changes didn’t aid arrests article from CNET News
  • Spy Master Admits Error article from Newsweek – Intel Czar Mike McConnell told Congress a new law helped bring down a terror plot. The facts say otherwise (he lied)
  • Impeach Bush and Cheney for Violating the Constitution article from UniOrb (the list of Constitutional violations has grown considerably since it was written in 2005)
  • Cheney Warrants Impeachment article from UniOrb Reality Check
  • DOJ’s “Community of Interest” letters are illegal article from the Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Office of the Inspector General Glenn Fine’s Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Use of National Security Letters (PDF – 34mb)

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