Is the Patriot Act unconstitutional
The recently revised draft law, according to Judge Victor Marrero, "violates the fundamental constitutional principles of mutual control and the separation of powers". The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had previously protested against the new Patriot Act. It would not be acceptable for the US Federal Police to oblige companies and organizations - for example Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Telcos or public libraries - to surrender customer data and then to keep it silent without a court order, using so-called National Security Letters (NSL). The judge apparently sees it the same way.
Marrero had already decided in 2004 under the original Patriot Act (the law was passed as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001) that the National Security Letters were not responsible. In particular, the associated obligation of confidentiality violates the constitutional right to freedom of expression.
After this first judgment, the US Congress revised the law in 2005 and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Marrero to review the amended legal text for its constitutionality.
The ACLU had complained that the FBI could also collect documents from companies with the new draft and oblige them to remain silent if the investigators believed that national security was at risk.
Judge Marrero has now decided that the new draft of the Patriot Act was written in such a way that it "reflected an attempt by Congress, and thus the executive branch, to violate the role assigned by the constitution to the judicial dictators". It is incontrovertibly the task of the courts to decide what law and statute are. "If Congress tries to cut or replace this role, it is jeopardizing the delicate balance of forces between the three branches of government and jeopardizing the most important foundations of our constitutional system," continued Marrero.
Those interested can find the 106-page text of the decision at the ACLU, which is expected to set the Bush administration back significantly in its efforts to expand its surveillance powers. . (tc)
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