A federal judge issued a stern rebuke of a key White House antiterror law, striking down as unconstitutional two pillars of the USA Patriot Act.
U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled Wednesday that using the act to authorize secret searches and wiretapping to gather criminal evidence _ instead of intelligence gathering _ violates the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
"For over 200 years, this nation has adhered to the rule of law _ with unparalleled success. A shift to a nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised," Aiken wrote.
The case began when the FBI misidentified a fingerprint in the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people in 2004, leading investigators to a Portland attorney whose home and office were secretly searched and bugged.
The FBI eventually apologized to the attorney, Brandon Mayfield, for its mistake and the federal government settled his lawsuit for $2 million.
But Mayfield challenged the Patriot Act over the searches and surveillance, claiming various civil rights violations.
By asking her to dismiss Mayfield's lawsuit, the judge said, the U.S. attorney general's office was "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."
Elden Rosenthal, an attorney for Mayfield, issued a statement on his behalf praising the judge, saying Aiken "has upheld both the tradition of judicial independence, and our nation's most cherished principle of the right to be secure in one's own home." (MORE)