Friday, September 07, 2007

"An ominous free pass to the hijacking of constitutional values"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Finally, finally, finally:

A federal judge struck down controversial portions of the USA Patriot Act in a ruling that declared them unconstitutional yesterday, ordering the FBI to stop its wide use of a warrantless tactic for obtaining e-mail and telephone data from private companies for counterterrorism investigations.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in New York said the FBI's use of secret "national security letters" to demand such data violates the First Amendment and constitutional provisions on the separation of powers, because the FBI can impose indefinite gag orders on the companies and the courts have little opportunity to review the letters.

The secrecy provisions are "the legislative equivalent of breaking and entering, with an ominous free pass to the hijacking of constitutional values," Marrero wrote. His strongly worded 103-page opinion amounted to a rebuke of both the administration and Congress...

Credit Judge Marrero, as well as the ACLU -- very good and noble work, if not often enough rewarded.

Freedom is indeed on the march, much to Bush's chagrin, and though the government will likely appeal, "the decision could eliminate or sharply curtail the FBI's issuance of tens of thousands of national security letters (NSLs) each year to telephone companies, Internet providers and other communications firms".

A victory for civil liberties over government abuse is no small thing.

But the fight must continue -- because the abuse certainly will.

(See also Firedoglake, The Democratic Daily, and Shakesville.)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share