- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2007

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Two provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional because they allow search warrants to be issued without a showing of probable cause, a federal judge ruled yesterday.

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.”

Portland lawyer Brandon Mayfield, a convert to Islam, sought the ruling in a lawsuit against the federal government after he was mistakenly linked by the FBI to the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 persons in 2004.

The federal government apologized and settled part of the lawsuit for $2 million after admitting that a fingerprint was misread. But as part of the settlement, Mr. Mayfield retained the right to challenge parts of the Patriot Act, which expanded the authority of law enforcers to investigate suspected acts of terrorism.

Mr. Mayfield said secret searches of his house and office under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act violated the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure. Judge Aiken, an appointee of President Clinton, agreed with Mr. Mayfield, repeatedly criticizing the government.

“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 wrote.

By asking her to dismiss Mr. Mayfield’s lawsuit, the judge said, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office was “asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. This court declines to do so.”

Elden Rosenthal, an attorney for Mr. Mayfield, praised the judge, saying she “has upheld both the tradition of judicial independence, and our nation’s most cherished principle of the right to be secure in one’s own home.”

Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said the agency was reviewing the decision, and he declined to comment further.

Mr. Mayfield was taken into custody on May 6, 2004, because of a fingerprint found on a detonator at the scene of the Madrid bombing. The FBI said the print matched Mr. Mayfield’s. He was released about two weeks later, and the FBI admitted that it had erred in saying the fingerprints were his and later apologized to him.

Before his arrest, the FBI put Mr. Mayfield under 24-hour surveillance, listened to his phone calls and surreptitiously searched his home and law office.

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