Thursday, September 30, 2004

The New York Times > National > Judge Strikes Down Section of Patriot Act

The New York Times > National > Judge Strikes Down Section of Patriot Act:
"The ruling invalidated one piece of the law, finding that it violated both free speech guarantees and protection against unreasonable searches. It is thought likely to provide fuel for other court challenges.

The ruling came in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against a kind of subpoena created under the act, known as a national security letter. Such letters could be used in terrorism investigations to require Internet service companies to provide personal information about subscribers and would bar them from disclosing to anyone that they had received a subpoena.

Such a subpoena could be issued without court review, under provisions that seemed to bar the recipient from discussing it with a lawyer.

Judge Marrero vehemently rejected that provision, saying that it was unique in American law in its 'all-inclusive sweep' and had 'no place in our open society.'"

Anthony Romero, executive director of the A.C.L.U., called the ruling a "stunning victory against John Ashcroft's Justice Department." He said it would reinforce arguments the group had made in a separate challenge in Michigan to another surveillance section of the act.

The ruling does not affect many sections of the act, which is more than 350 pages long, that give the government enhanced powers to control immigration, conduct searches and investigate financial support for terrorism. It comes as Congress is debating additions to the Patriot Act.

Bush administration officials have said the Patriot Act is a foundation of their efforts to prevent terrorist attacks against Americans.

The civil liberties group's suit was brought on behalf of John Doe, an Internet provider company that received a national security letter from the F.B.I., but was barred under its terms from revealing its name. Until the judge revealed the facts of the case in his ruling, the civil liberties group had been reluctant to state publicly that it was representing a company that had received a national security letter.

Such subpoenas would prevent Internet companies from telling customers that the F.B.I. had collected their information.
con·cept: The New York Times > National > Judge Strikes Down Section of Patriot Act