US Patriot Act provisions struck down by NewYork Judge
[TamilNet, Saturday, 08 September 2007, 02:12 GMT]
Southern District of New York Judge Victor Marrero Thursday ruled unconstitutional a provision in the Patriot Act authorizing the FBI to issue a form of administrative subpoena, called a National Security Letter (NSL), to demand e-mail and telephone data from private companies for counterterrorism investigations, violates the 1st Amendment and constitutional provisions on the separation of powers, legal sources in US close to the court ruling said Thursday.
Marrero, who was appointed by President Clinton in 1999, warned of "far-reaching invasions of liberty" when courts refuse to set limits on government power. He pointed specifically to Supreme Court rulings that sanctioned the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II and upheld racial segregation in schools and other public accommodations, a front page story in the Washington Post Friday issue said.
Marrero's decision would bar the use of NSLs to demand data from electronic communications companies, a procedure that was the focus of the lawsuit.
But the ruling appears to leave untouched the FBI's ability to demand bank records, credit reports and other financial data related to counterterrorism and other probes, because those authorities are covered by other statutes, said legal experts according to Washington Post.
Unlike other subpoenas and warrants, no approval from the judicial branch is required to issue an NSL.
"The risk of investing the FBI with unchecked discretion to restrict such speech is that government agents, based on their own self-certification, may limit speech that does not pose a significant threat to national security or other compelling government interest," Marrero said.
The lack of judicial oversight was at the core of Doe v. Ashcroft, a high-profile test of the usage of NSLs. Brought forward by an unnamed Internet Service Provider who had been served with NSLs, it challenged the constitutionality of the letters, specifically the non-disclosure provisions.
Judge Victor Marrero of the Southern District of New York found, on 28 September 2004, that NSLs violate the Fourth ("it has the effect of authorizing coercive searches effectively immune from any judicial process") and First Amendments.
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