Judge knocks down part of Patriot Act

An Oregon judge on Wednesday ruled that two provisions of the Patriot Act violated the U.S. Constitution’s protection against unlawful searches and seizures.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled in favor of Brandon Mayfield, a lawyer wrongly arrested by the FBI in 2004 for possible ties to the Madrid train bombings, who challenged the secret searches of his home and office.

The judge said the amendments made by the Patriot Act to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows the government to conduct searches and monitor American citizens without probable cause, which is typically required by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“The defendant here is 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,” Aiken wrote in her ruling.

In Washington, Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said, “We are reviewing the decision, and while we have no further comment, we are reviewing all our options.”

Aiken’s ruling is the second legal blow delivered to the Patriot Act in less than a month. A district judge in New York said a provision in the Patriot Act that requires people who are formally contacted by the FBI for information to keep it a secret is unconstitutional.

The anti-terror Patriot Act, enacted by Congress after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, expanded the rights of law enforcement agencies and eased restrictions on foreign intelligence gathering.