The WaPo reports that a U.S. District court ruled earlier today that two provisions of the Patriot Act are unconstitutional because warrants issued under FISA may not demonstrate probable cause:
U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as amended by the Patriot Act, “now permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment.”
“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,” she [Judge Aiken] wrote.
While this decision will not make the Bush administration or security hawks happy I believe that it is the correct ruling.
Though much has happened since the tumultuous times after 9/11, it’s still crystal clear in my mind how the administration redefined patriot to mean a person who agreed, without question, in their plans to secure the nation, regardless of what Constitutional compromises might be required. Republicans, led by Bush and Cheney, proceeded to use patriotism as a club to beat down dissent, a heavy-handed tactic that only worked because of the word’s new meaning.
The Patriot Act was one of the primary products of that politically brutal effort and one that I think history will show to have been a mistake for the nation.
Probable cause, like habeous corpus, is a central tenet of the justice system. It should not have been skirted for the last 5 years and should be restored to its rightful place as a right held by all Americans, the sooner the better.