NEWS

Part of Patriot Act Struck Down as Unconstitutional

By Matthew Harwood

A federal judge has ruled two parts of the Patriot Act unconstitutional, reports the Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as amended within the Patriot Act, violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects against illegal searches and seizures.

The ruling is tied to a lawsuit by Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield who was mistakenly arrested for his possible involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombing, which killed 191 people in Spain's capital city.

The FBI admitted its mistake and paid Mayfield $2 million in damages. As part of the settlement, Mayfield could also challenge portions of the Patriot Act, which he did.

Here's the AP's recap of how things played out:

Mayfield claimed that secret searches of his house and office under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act violated the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure. Aiken agreed with Mayfield, repeatedly criticizing the government.

"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, as well as ill-advised," she wrote.

By asking her to dismiss Mayfield's lawsuit, the judge said, the U.S. attorney general's office 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 FISA has been in the news lately with its new version, as amended by the Protect America Act, under critical inspection by Congress because it allows the U.S. intelligence community to listen in on suspected enemies of the United States outside the country without a warrant, even if an American citizen is on the other side of the line.

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