Oregon District Judge Slams USA Patriot Act in Mayfield Case

September 26, 2007

Oregon District Judge Ann Aiken slammed the US government Wednesday, declaring that key portions of the USA Patriot Act violate the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unlawful search and seizure of “their persons, houses, papers and effects”.

Oregon attorney Brandon Mayfield was targeted by the US government for suspected involvement in the March 2004 bombings of commuter trains in Madrid, Spain that killed 191 persons and injured more than 1000. Mayfield, a practicing Muslim, was arrested after FBI agents allegedly determined that his fingerprints had been found on a bag used by the bombers. Acting under authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), as amended by the USA Patriot Act, federal agents searched Mayfield’s home and office, tailed him and his family, bugged his home and workplace and tapped his phones.

Judge Aiken found that even though the FBI stated that one of Mayfield’s fingerprints was a “100 percent” match to a print lifted from evidence at the scene of the bombings, Spanish authorities had insisted that the print actually belonged to an Algerian militant named Ouhane Daoud. Aiken found that federal agents issued “false and misleading affidavits” in order to justify invasive searches and Mayfield’s arrest as a “material witness” to the bombings.

Aiken found that the US government improperly revised the FISA law under the Patriot Act to conduct illegal surveillance of domestic criminal activity under the guise of terrorism surveillance.

“For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law – with unparalleled success,” Aiken wrote in her 44-page opinion. “A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised.”

Citing the US Supreme Court’s words from a prior case, Aiken affirmed: “The price of lawful public dissent must not be a dread of subjection to an unchecked surveillance power. Nor must the fear of unauthorized official eavesdropping deter vigorous citizen dissent and discussion of Government action in private conversation. For private dissent, no less than open public discourse, is essential to our free society.”

[UPDATE: As expected, the Bush regime, er, administration, has appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.]


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