The ACLU announced a victory today when a federal judge struck down a provision of the revised ‘Patriot Act’.
A federal court today struck down the amended Patriot Act’s National Security Letter (NSL) provision. The law has permitted the FBI to issue NSLs demanding private information about people within the United States without court approval, and to gag those who receive NSLs from discussing them. The court found that the gag power was unconstitutional and that because the statute prevented courts from engaging in meaningful judicial review of gags, it violated the First Amendment and the principle of separation of powers.
U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero wrote, “In light of the seriousness of the potential intrusion into the individual’s personal affairs and the significant possibility of a chilling effect on speech and association – particularly of expression that is critical of the government or its policies (emphasis mine) – a compelling need exists to ensure that the use of NSLs is subject to the safeguards of public accountability, checks and balances, and separation of powers that our Constitution prescribes.
The importance of the 1st Amendment in a truly democratic society cannot be over emphasized. Dian has a great post up on the 1st Amendment over at Concerned Citizens