Some of the most controversial portions of the U.S. Patriot Act have been declared unconstitutional. Thursday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero is a setback for the Justice Department, but quite a victory for the ACLU, which filed the lawsuit.
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, which had revised the act in 2005 to take into account an earlier ruling by the judge on the same topic.
The ACLU should be commended on this one. The slippery slope to from freedom to tyranny chosen by the Bush Administration is not worth the price.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the ruling. “We are reviewing the decision and considering our options,” said spokesman Dean Boyd.
But Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit in the case, said the ruling “is yet another setback in the Bush administration’s strategy in the war on terror and demonstrates the far-reaching efforts of this administration to use powers that are clearly unconstitutional.”
Let’s hope it’s not the last setback for the Bush Administration. The rest of us have suffered far too many.