U.S Court curbs FBI powers granted in Patriot Act
[TamilNet, Thursday, 30 September 2004, 00:12 GMT]
Federal judge Victor Marrero, who presides U.S. District Court in New York City, struck down Wednesday a key part of the U.S. Patriot Act, which granted to the FBI surveillance powers to demand company records from businesses without court approval, as unconstitutional, media reports in the U.S said.
"The legislation bars companies and other recipients of these subpoenas from ever revealing that they received the FBI demand for records. Marreo held that this permanent ban was a violation of free-speech rights, CNN website reported.
The provisions of the Act had been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Although the ACLU's suit was filed on behalf of an Internet access firm, the ruling could apply to other entities that have received FBI secretive subpoenas, known as national security letters.
"This is a landmark victory against the Justice Department's misguided attempt to intrude into the lives of innocent Americans in the name of national security. Even now, some in Congress are trying to pass additional intrusive law enforcement powers. This decision should put a halt to those efforts," Aljazeera website quoted ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero as saying.
The ruling was the latest blow to the Bush administration's antiterrorism policies.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that terror suspects being held in U.S. facilities like Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, can use the American judicial system to challenge their confinement. That ruling was a defeat for the president's assertion of sweeping powers to hold "enemy combatants" indefinitely after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
In January Judge Audrey Collins in Los Angeles declared Patriot Act's addition of "expert advice and assistance" to the definition of material support was unconstitutionally vague. Judge Collins enjoined the U.S.Government from enforcing the USA PATRIOT Act's prohibition on providing 'expert advice or assistance' to foreign terrorist organizations against the plaintiffs Ralph Fertig, Dr. Jeyalingam, the Humanitarian Law Project, the Ilankai Thamil Sangam and its members, and the Tamil Welfare and Human Rights Committee and its members.
"It is the first time that a court has struck down a portion of the controversial law approved by Congress six weeks after the September 11, 2001 attacks," Washington Post said of Judge Collins ruling.
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