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Judge Rules Against Patriot Act Provision

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posted on Sep, 30 2004 @ 02:59 AM
A U.S. District Court Judge has ruled a key component of the Patriot Act unconstitutional. Judge Victor Marrero in the first major decision against the controversial act, stated "democracy abhors undue secrecy," . He further found that the law violated constitutional provisions against unreasonable searches and violated free speech rights. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had brought the suit under a seal to avoid penalties for violating the very same surveillance laws it was fighting. The judge further stated that the FBI had unchecked power to get customer records from internet and other communication companies.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Surveillance powers granted to the FBI under the Patriot Act, a cornerstone of the Bush Administration's war on terror, were ruled unconstitutional by a judge on Wednesday in a new blow to U.S. security policies.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, in the first decision against a surveillance portion of the act, ruled for the American Civil Liberties Union in its challenge against what it called "unchecked power" by the FBI to demand confidential customer records from communication companies, such as Internet service providers or telephone companies.

Marrero, stating that "democracy abhors undue secrecy," found that the law violates constitutional prohibitions against unreasonable searches. He said it also violated free speech rights by barring those who received FBI demands from disclosing they had to turn over records.

Because of this gag order, the ACLU initially had to file its suit against the Department of Justice under seal to avoid penalties for violation of the surveillance

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Enacted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Patriot Act was intended to give government agencies like the FBI greater power to prevent terrorism attacks. Since 1986 the FBI had the power to issue national security letters to communications companies to get evidence if they believed that a person was a foreign spy. No court order was required for these to be issued. In 1993 the power was expanded to include suspected terrorists. The Patriot Act expanded these powers even further. The ruling prohibits the FBI from issuing the letters. However, the judge delayed enforcement of the ruling to give the government time to appeal.

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