In what amounts as a major blow to the secretive and questionable practices used by the Bush Administration, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero reportedly ruled against a key part of the USA Patriot Act defending the need for judicial oversight of laws and chastised Congress for passing a law that makes “far-reaching invasions of liberty” possible.
The USA Patriot Act, created after the 9/11 attacks gave broader investigative powers to law enforcement. Under the law, the FBI was allowed to issue so-called “national security letters” (NSL) to companies such as internet service providers and phone companies to demand customers phone and internet records without court supervision required for other governmental searches.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had challenged the law on behalf of an internet service provide. Judge Marrero said that there was much more at stake than questions about the national security letters. He said Congress had essentially tried to legislate how the judiciary must review challenges to the law and if done to other bills, they could ultimately all “be styled to make the validation of the law foolproof.”
After noting that the courthouse where he resides is several blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood, Judge Marrero said the Constitution was designed so that the dangers of any given moment could never justify discarding fundamental individual liberties. “When the judiciary lowers its guard on the Constitution, it opens the door to far-reaching invasions of liberty” he said.