Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Federal Judge rules Patriot Act Provisions Unconstitutional

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled today that two provisions of the Patriot Act are unconstitutional because they allow search warrants to be issued without a showing of probable cause, thus constituting a violation of the 4th Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable search and seizures.

Aiken wrote that the Patriot Act, "...permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens 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. A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited ..."

The federal government, Aiken continued, was “...asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. This court declines to do so."

The case was brought by Portland resident Brandon Mayfield, who was erroneously linked by the FBI to the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people in 2004. Mayfield - possibly targeted because he is a Muslim convert - was taken into custody on May 6, 2004, because of a fingerprint found on a detonator at the scene of the Madrid bombing. The FBI said the print matched Mayfield's. As part the investigation leading to his arrest, secret searches of Mayfield’s home were conducted by the FBI, his home and office were placed under surveillance, and his phone was wiretapped, all without warrants. An internal investigation by the US Justice Department eventually concluded that FBI agents compunded their wrecklessness by making “...inaccurate and ambiguous statements...” to a federal judge to backtrack and get an arrest warrant against Mayfield.

Mayfield was released two weeks later, after the FBI admitted that the fingerprints did not match.

A Justice Department spokesman said the agency was reviewing the court's decision and declined to comment further. The Federal Government has the right to appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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