Thursday, September 27, 2007

Surprise! - An Independent Judiciary

The founding fathers' spinning in their graves slowed down a few revolutions per minute yesterday. U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken has ruled two provisions of the Orwellian-titled Patriot Act unconstitutional. Judge Aiken's strongly worded, 44-page decision states 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". What should have been obvious to Congress before they violated their oath of office by passing this legislation has been pointed out to them by a member of the Judicial Branch. Hopefully, since Congress didn't take the time to read the Patriot Act before passing it, they will now take the time to read Judge Aiken's decision -- perchance to gain a semblance of an education in constitutional law. That might be a valuable thing for lawmakers to acquire. Here are some selected quotes from the ruling:

"It is critical that we, as a democratic nation, pay close attention to traditional Fourth Amendment principles." -- [The Act] "holds that the Constitution need not control the conduct of criminal surveillance in the United States." -- "In place of the Fourth Amendment, the people are expected to defer to the executive branch and its representation that it will authorize such surveillance only when appropriate." -- [The Justice Department] "is asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. The court declines to do so."

Look at that set of nuts on Judge Aiken! And she's a lady! Hey Congress! That is how a patriot acts!

The case that led to this decision was yet another nightmare of authoritarian abuses carried out by the Bush thugs in their endless quest to prosecute somebody, anybody, for terrorism-related charges in order to justify all of their shiny new draconian laws. Their culprit -- Portland, Oregon attorney Brandon Mayfield. His crimes -- being a convert to Islam, and the victim of a bungled fingerprint identification which led investigators to suspect him of involvement in the Madrid train bombings of 2004. The FBI proceeded to secretly search his home and office without his knowledge -- a flagrant violation of the Fourth Amendment -- copying his computer files and planting bugging devices on their way out. They also recorded his telephone calls and subsequently threw him in jail for two weeks. When they finally did their homework and properly matched the fingerprint to an Algerian man, they released Mayfield, but they had messed with the wrong guy. He sued, and the government settled for $2 million. But Brandon Mayfield wasn't done. He challenged the portions of the Patriot Act that allowed those secret searches and surveillance on the grounds that they violate our constitutional rights -- resulting in Judge Aiken's decision yesterday. Once again the overzealous Bush administration's trademark combination of arrogance, brutality, and incompetence comes back to embarrass them. After being granted all of this new power in the aftermath of 9/11, they immediately start abusing it -- as predicted.

Of course we can expect this ruling to be appealed, all the way up to Bush's slanted Supreme Court if necessary. But for now, the wisdom of the founding fathers in setting up that third coequal branch of government, the Judicial Branch, has come shining through.

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