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Judge Strikes Down Part of Patriot Act 673

Shining Celebi writes "U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero ruled in favor of the ACLU and struck down a portion of the revised USA PATRIOT Act this morning, forcing investigators to go through the courts to obtain approval before ordering ISPs to give up information on customers, instead of just sending them a National Security Letter. In the words of Judge Marrero, this use of National Security Letters 'offends the fundamental constitutional principles of checks and balances and separation of powers.'"
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Judge Strikes Down Part of Patriot Act

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  • by Telephone Sanitizer ( 989116 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:03PM (#20497111)
    I, for one, welcome our newly Constitutionally-conscious judicial overlords.
    • It's a good start (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ShatteredArm ( 1123533 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:08PM (#20497189)

      Next on the todo list: throw out the rest of that abomination of a document that is the Patriot Act. It seems more and more often that document is affecting reach of life that go far beyond "national security". I recently had to provide multiple forms of documentation to open a Health Savings Account because of a Patriot Act provision.

      Good work, Congress. Protecting our freedoms by removing our freedoms.

      • Well, you're too dumb to use your freedoms properly. You should THANK your appointed officials for deciding the best way for you to go about your daily life.
      • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @03:03PM (#20497981) Homepage Journal
        Actually the Patriot Act is a mixed bag of some stuff that is pretty bad, and other stuff that seems reasonable but isn't a solution to the situation we faced on 9/11.

        If you go through the provisions, most of them seem to be aimed at the proverbial "ticking time bomb" scenario. This wouldn't have helped on 9/11, because the first inkling we had the operation was going on was when the plane was hijacked. At that point the time it would take to get a warrant in Boston vs. Washington DC wasn't an issue. Other provisions pierce the Chinese wall between intelligence and law enforcement. Again that wasn't an issue in 9/11. Had we taken the steps available to us under the old rules, it would have made a difference. Having the same attitude, the new rules would not have made a difference.

        If we had done everything we should have in the lead up to 9/11, it is conceivable although not certain that the provisions in the Patriot Act might have made a difference. That is saying something for the Patriot Act in my opinion.

        The main problem with the Patriot Act is not what it contains, but what it fails to contain: any provision to hold the executive branch accountable for its use of its new powers. And therein lies the opportunity for a tool of security to become a tool of tyranny. As President Reagan said: trust, but verify. Which means you can trust somebody when any cheating would be made obvious.

        The police have the ability to do all kinds of things to you that you wouldn't want them to do, up to and including shooting you dead. This doesn't mean we live in some kind of police haunted dystopia, for the simple reason that there are rules that govern the police use of their powers, and when they exercise those powers they have to answer to the courts as to whether they were using those powers within their lawful limits. That's accountability: it's a philosophy that works.

        This by the way is the problem with the administration's wiretapping programs. I'm happy to let them have such programs for the purposes they claim so long as somebody independent verifies they are using it for that alone. If there is no such mechanism, it doesn't matter if the program is being run by Jesus Himself. It's a bad program.
        • by Vancorps ( 746090 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @03:20PM (#20498169)

          You make some fine points but verifying that they are being used as intended isn't enough. There needs to be steep penalties for misuse of the immense amount of power being given.

          Of course in my mind the old rules were fine, there was sufficient information to prevent the tragedy much like like the events leading up to Pearl Harbor. The problem was communicating internally to get the right information to the right people at the right time. That doesn't take the PATRIOT Act with its far overreaching changes. Imagine how many billions have been spent because of it and how little it has accomplished to help us. I can't believe that in modern times we still have the same problems with communication. An f'in email could have prevented all of this from happening.

          Of course none of this would have been an issue if Congress had been doing it's job initially. There's the real broken link. The wiretapping programs are simply absurd. There is no way to reasonably interpret the constitution to allow such things. The constitution is a document which specifically states what the government can do to us. There is simply no language in there that would allow this invasion of privacy. Combine that with all the search and seizure changes involved in the war on drugs and you've got yourself a pattern. I wish it was as simple as republican versus democrat but there is a long history of this abuse and more laws aren't going to fix it. Someone needs to enforce the laws we already have. We need to get rid of the PATRIOT Act, repeal the war powers act, and get back to some semblance of sanity.

          How in the world in this day and age can a president blatantly violate the constitution and remain completely unchallenged? It's simply astounding.

        • It's certainly true that some of the provisions "might have" prevented a 9/11 attack, but hindsight is 20/20. Granted I've only just started reading his work, but Sun Tzu clearly indicated that in order to successfully wage war when your force is smaller, you have to attack where your enemy does not expect you. That is the problem with this kind of war; you can defend against one tactic, but they'll simply adapt and do something else. Look at internet security--it doesn't matter how much Microsoft patche

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 06, 2007 @04:11PM (#20498861)
        Protecting our freedoms? I thought it was about stopping terrorist attacks. I mean, so many people have died in America from Osama Bin Laden's terrorism; there have been almost 3,000 deaths this century! []

        Of course, since over 40,000 people die every year on the highways, [] I'd like to see some of that "Homeland Security" money go to guard rails and other safety improvements. I'm far more afraid of the cell-phone weilding blonde than the bomb wielding Muslim!

        But wait, that's still chicken feed. Osama should be jealous as hell of a far bigger terrorist - RJ Reynolds, whose poison kills over half a million people yearly! [] the corporate terrorists are truly deadly!

        Even Ronald McDonald kicks Osama's ass when it comes to killing Americans. Heart Disease also kills over half a million Americans every year. []

        Hell, even Bush himself is deadlier to Americans than Osama, since well over 3,000 of the soldiers he sent to Iraq (to destabilize the region and drive gas prices up; he's an oil man. Gas was $1 here when he took office, now it's over three times as high) have died there.

        Al Quaida? Shit, the tornado that tore through my home town in 2006 [] miraculously didn't kill or even seriously injure anyone, but look at the destruction of ONE building! [] The tree behind my apartment looked like a weed someone had stomped on. I saw twisted girders, trailor homes torn in half, five foot diameter trees uprooted, wood splinters imbedded in concrete. If Osama saw what I saw he'd have given up.

        So I completely agree with you. That God damned abomination must go! I think the Congress and Senate who passed it and the President who begged for it and signed it should go as well.

        -mcgrew []
    • Contribute (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:20PM (#20497367)
      The ACLU challenged this law, and hence brought about this ruling. Hopefully, they will be successful in challenging similar laws in the future.

      You benefit from their work.

      They need to eat.

      Donate. []

      • Re:Contribute (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TooMuchToDo ( 882796 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:26PM (#20497443)
        I donate to the ACLU as well as the EFF, but frankly I think these two groups should get a grant yearly from the government to keep watch over them. Silly idea? Ever heard about the GAO? []

        The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is known as "the investigative arm of Congress" and "the congressional watchdog." GAO supports the Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and helps improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. GAO's work includes oversight of federal programs; insight into ways to make government more efficient, effective, ethical and equitable; and foresight of long-term trends and challenges. GAO's reports, testimonies, legal decisions and opinions make a difference for Congress and the Nation.

        I see the ACLU and EFF serving the same purpose, except they're the investigative/defensive arm of the general citizenry.

        • Re:Contribute (Score:5, Insightful)

          by drudd ( 43032 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:41PM (#20497647)
          Actually that would be a terrible idea. You can't have effective oversight if your funding is controlled by the party you are overseeing.

        • Re:Contribute (Score:5, Insightful)

          by RexRhino ( 769423 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:43PM (#20497673)

          I donate to the ACLU as well as the EFF, but frankly I think these two groups should get a grant yearly from the government to keep watch over them. Silly idea? Ever heard about the GAO?
          That is the worst idea I have ever heard:

          1. Any agency funded by the government, works for the government. For the ACLU to protect the rights of the people, it has to be voluntarily funded by the people directly. The government funding the ACLU is like the Mafia funding the FBI.

          2. While the ACLU does do a good job protecting certain rights, the ACLU does a shitty job protecting other rights. When was the last time the ACLU defended people's 2nd Amendment Rights? Or do you want the NRA to be government funded as well?
          • Re:Contribute (Score:5, Interesting)

            by timmy the large ( 223281 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @03:48PM (#20498523)
            The ACLU working with the Texas NRA has actively been fighting the use of profiling white males in the Houston area. These men are pulled over by the police and searched for a firearm. If a firearm is found it is confiscated and the man is arrested. This is in direct contridiction to state law and rulings by the Texas judiciary on the law. The ACLU and the TNRA are fighting to put a stop to this action.

            The worst part is that the local DA and the police know it is illegal to do this and do it anyway.

            Personally I think we need both the ACLU and the NRA, and as many other groups that want to fight for our civil liberties.

          • Re:Contribute (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Darby ( 84953 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @03:56PM (#20498659)

            2. While the ACLU does do a good job protecting certain rights, the ACLU does a shitty job protecting other rights. When was the last time the ACLU defended people's 2nd Amendment Rights?

            The problem I have with this argument is that the NRA is bigger and wealthier than the ACLU. The NRA is way on top of 2nd amendment issues. With a smaller budget, the ACLU is guarding the other 9... well maybe 7 or so amendments in the bill of rights.

            Given that there is already a bigger more powerful organization tasked strictly with defense of the 2nd don't you think it's reasonable that the ACLU would leave those fights to the NRA and concentrate their limited resources on the larger problem space they're tasked with?

      • Re:Contribute (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rainman_bc ( 735332 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:30PM (#20497503)

        The ACLU challenged this law, and hence brought about this ruling. Hopefully, they will be successful in challenging similar laws in the future.
        The sad part is though that government can pass a law, knowing full well that it'll take SCOTUS four years before striking it down.

        IMO that's a BIG problem. It means essentially that they can pass any unconstitutional law and SCOTUS will take four years before they'll strike it down as unconstitutional. That IMO is really bad.
        • Re:Contribute (Score:5, Insightful)

          by E++99 ( 880734 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:59PM (#20497899) Homepage

          IMO that's a BIG problem. It means essentially that they can pass any unconstitutional law and SCOTUS will take four years before they'll strike it down as unconstitutional. That IMO is really bad.

          It takes less than two years to vote out a Representative who votes for an unconstitutional law. The founding fathers were relying on the people, not SCOTUS, to defend their constitution.
    • by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) * on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:30PM (#20497511) Homepage Journal

      In completely unrelated news, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero has been arrested as an enemy combatant who hates freedom as is currently on an airplane in transit to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he will be held indefinitely. Ironically, it is unlikely that this judge will ever see his own day in court.

      President Bush has issued a signing statement declaring that the principles of checks and balances and separation of powers is unConstitutional, since "Clearly the executive branch of government is over the other two, or else they wouldn't have called it the 'executive' branch." Dick Cheney couldn't be reached for comment to see which branch of government he is part of today.

  • About damn time... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by santiago ( 42242 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:03PM (#20497117)
    At least someone still has some sense and remembers about those quaint old "rights" and "warrants" and "due process".
  • Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:03PM (#20497123) Homepage Journal
    In the words of Judge Marrero, this use of National Security Letters "offends the fundamental constitutional principles of checks and balances and separation of powers."

    Where is the "nodamnkidding" tag when you need it?

  • Now the rest... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mikee805 ( 1091195 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:04PM (#20497133)
    Now we just have to get the rest struck down.
  • Now for Congress (Score:5, Insightful)

    by faloi ( 738831 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:05PM (#20497139)
    If the members of Congress had any sort of backbone, we wouldn't have needed to bring checks and balances into play.
  • to be blunt (Score:4, Insightful)

    by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:07PM (#20497161) Homepage
    this use of National Security Letters "offends the fundamental constitutional principles of checks and balances and separation of powers."

    This entire administration offends the fundamental constitutional principles of checks and balances and separation of powers.
  • ahem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thatskinnyguy ( 1129515 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:07PM (#20497171)
    "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." -Benjamin Franklin
    • by goldspider ( 445116 ) <> on Thursday September 06, 2007 @03:00PM (#20497931) Homepage
      -noun 1. an instance of apprehending the true nature of a thing, esp. through intuitive understanding

      People here have been rolling out that tired quote for the past six years. Posting it verbatim no longer qualifies as "insightful" IMO.
  • Odds (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff ( 680366 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:08PM (#20497187)
    Anyone want to guess how long it'll be before Victor finds himself out of a job?... Unfortunately...
  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) <> on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:12PM (#20497235) Homepage Journal
    I'm an anti-voter [], anti-voting in all elections that I can vote in. Many people are surprised that I said I would actually vote for Ron Paul in the primaries, since this vote doesn't actually give any of my rights up to another individual. But even with so many RP supporters online (and now offline), I still think the only way to reduce tyranny in this country is to get judges back into reading the Constitution, and understanding that the document is not flexible, living, breathing and adapting.

    Since the U.S. was born, it was understood by all, even detractors, that the Constitution had one purpose: the keep Federal government small and let the individual States be big for those who wanted a big State, and small for those who wanted a small State. People afraid of a North American Union forget that the U.S. was designed this way: a union of States (governments) that agree to one thing: personal rights and responsibilities (these are one thing because they go hand-in-hand).

    I'm SHOCKED that we today forget that freedom comes from a lack of government intrusion, NOT from government intrusion. The PATRIOT Act is a simple proof that citizens today have no clue that the Federal government is restrained by the Constitution exactly as it was written. No laws restricting speech, no laws restricting arms, no laws restricting Habeus Corpus, no laws restricting travel or transport, no laws restricting trade, no laws restricting the People's rights beyond what limited powers the central body has. In fact, the only thing the Feds really can do is to make sure the individual States don't trample on the individual's rights to act non-violently how they want to act.

    I'm glad to see SOME judges admire SOME parts of the Constitution, but I can only dream of a day when judges understand the non-breathing, non-adapting Constitutional limits on the Feds. When that happens, nothing Congress or a power-hungry President do would become law.
    • by frankie ( 91710 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @04:14PM (#20498903) Journal
      You shouldn't be "shocked" that the federal government has grown so cancerously. Heck, most of the founding fathers predicted that it would happen.
      • Outside Independence Hall when the Constitutional Convention of 1787 ended, Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, "Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, "A republic, if you can keep it."
      • "Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder." - George Washington
      • "The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse." - James Madison
      • "When the people fear the government, tyranny has found victory. The federal government is our servant, not our master!" - Thomas Jefferson
      • "The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money." - Alexis de Tocqueville
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Improv ( 2467 )
      You're describing the American Confederation more than the United States. The Confederation didn't work very well because it was based on the principles you describe, and so they went back to the drawing board after a few years and tried something a little bit less extremist (which is when the Constitution was written). Your statement "it was understood by all" is inaccurate.

      Various interests struggle in an active society - threats to autonomy and dignity can come as easily from the state as from each other
  • by infonography ( 566403 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:12PM (#20497241) Homepage
    This act is contrary to everything that makes America who it is. At least they had the marginally good sense to put a sunset on it. I think they knew it would be kicked out at some point anyway. Good riddance. Patriot Act supporters are whats wrong in America.
    • Hint: Whenever you want a tyrannic act approved, just name it "patriot", "family", "protection", "security" or whichever nice name that will appeal to the idio^H^H^H^Hvoters.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sdedeo ( 683762 )
        One of the most bizarre and Orwellian things is that the Patriot act is not the "Patriot act". Its official name is (no joke!) the "USA PATRIOT []" act. All caps, it stands for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act".
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kjella ( 173770 )
        Or in the words of Hermann Goering: "Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and expos
    • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @03:15PM (#20498093) Homepage Journal
      Clean air act means more air pollution.
      No child left behind means all children held back.
      Healthy forest initiative means clear cutting...

      See a pattern yet?
  • A US District Court is a fairly low-level court. As a result, this is but the first step in the process. You can be assured that the Feds are going to appeal this vigorously to the highest levels...
  • More partisan crap? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by keraneuology ( 760918 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:15PM (#20497275) Journal
    While I agree 100% with the decision, I can't help but wonder if this judge (a Clinton appointee) made a ruling based on his true conscience and understanding of Constitutional law or if the thought "gee, if I strike this down I can make the Republicans look bad" crossed his mind, even if only for an instant.

    Courts these days have very little to do with a codified rule of law - look at all of the Supreme Court cases where major changes in national course have been made by a single person voting along party lines.

    This ruling is inevitably going to be appealed, since the government has unlimited funds to drag things through court indefinitely (zero accoutability) and will eventually be brought before the USSC where it will probably be ultimately overturned on a 5-4 vote along party lines. Personally, I think that any case that isn't decided by a margin of at least three should never be allowed to be considered as precedent, and that if a judicial panel can't rule by at least a margin of two then the law should be immediately thrown out as being too vague.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DragonTHC ( 208439 )
      Here's the problem: The patriot act is broad and vague. It provides too much power with too little oversight. Its abuse has been well documented.
      Claiming that it is partisan crap just makes you look like a fool. Anyone who cares about partisanship is a fool.

      We're all Americans (of those of us who are) and we need to unite in the common cause of preserving our fair republic.
      These people in power now (who claim to be republicans) are actually neo-conservatives. (also known as reaganites).
      Their goals are
  • by downix ( 84795 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:23PM (#20497405) Homepage
    The Bush admin wll just use their next atty general to prevent these cases from getting reviewed, appealing it all the way to the now-biased supreme court. This is a long fight.
  • by KiltedKnight ( 171132 ) * on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:32PM (#20497529) Homepage Journal
    As many have said before, The Patriot Act is anything but patriotic.

    Various parts of The Government Intrusion Act have been struck down over the years, right from the time it was first passed. I was hoping they'd let it just go away through its sunset clause, but they rammed a new version through. So now we start the process anew... go after one part at a time. It may take a while, but it will all eventually go away because Congress and the President overstepped their constitutional authority.

  • Doomed (Score:5, Informative)

    by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:48PM (#20497735)
    The Honorable Judge Don Quixote is tilting at windmills here. According to the United States Supreme Court, the ACLU and its clients don't have standing to challenge this law, since they can't prove that they personally were ever the subjects of investigations.

    The Government can prevent this kind of challenge by simply declaring that the existence of such NSLs is a State Secret, denying any prospective plaintiffs proof that they have standing. That's exactly what the USSC ruled in the secret-wiretap ruling recently and the Administration is sure to have pointed that out (I don't have a copy of the pleadings here, but given the Administration's fondness for that tactic I can't imagine that they would have missed that one.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:51PM (#20497801) Homepage

    Read the actual decision. (PDF) [] What the court ruled was that the "gag rule" associated with "National Security Letters" was fundamentally unconstitutional as a First Amendment violation. The issue is that the FBI can't impose a "gag order" on someone without court approval.

    The previous issue, issuance of National Security Letters without court approval as a Fourth Amendment violation, was dealt with when Congress revised the Patriot Act last year to allow recipients of a National Security Letter to challenge them in court, like a subpoena.

    As a classic rule of First Amendment jurisprudence, when the Court finds a First Amendment violation, they strike down the entire statute, rather than trying to patch it. That's what the court did here. The court also stayed the execution of the order pending an appeal, which is likely.

    It's a narrow holding. The FBI can still issue National Security Letters without going to court first, but anyone who receives one is now in a much stronger position to argue about it. As a practical matter, if you work for an ISP or telco and get a National Security Letter, your response is "This has to go through our lawyers."

  • Patriot Act (Score:3, Insightful)

    by St0rmCr0w ( 1152973 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @04:10PM (#20498855)
    I remember saying on 09/11/2001 that the government will use the fear generated by the crashes to ram the Patriot Act down our throats. It's sad that our country gives up personal freedom so willingly. While any reverse of any part of the Act is good, I won't be happy until it's abolished in its entirety. But, now that its there, it will be tough to eradicate. I wish people would think before they act in fear. Anyway, my $0.02.
  • Greeeeaat! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pimpbott ( 642033 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @04:19PM (#20498967)
    Now if we can just get the Executive branch to listen to... oh I dunno... ANYBODY else, this might mean something. Is it me, or is the Legislative and Judicial branches a bunch of big fat pussies? No wonder the Executives are running away with all the marbles.
  • Record Companies (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KevMar ( 471257 ) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @04:27PM (#20499037) Homepage Journal
    ok, so the US government must get a court order to get customer info from ISP's but the record companies dont?

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?