**What's that phrase? oh yeah...waahhhooo!
A federal judge struck down an important surveillance provision of the antiterrorism legislation known as the USA Patriot Act yesterday, ruling that it broadly violated the Constitution by giving the federal authorities unchecked powers to obtain private information.
The ruling, by Judge Victor Marrero of Federal District Court in Manhattan, was the first to uphold a challenge to the surveillance sections of the act, which was adopted in October 2001 to expand the powers of the federal government in national security investigations.
The ruling invalidated one piece of the law, finding that it violated both free speech guarantees and protection against unreasonable searches. It is thought likely to provide fuel for other court challenges.
The ruling came in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against a kind of subpoena created under the act, known as a national security letter. Such letters could be used in terrorism investigations to require Internet service companies to provide personal information about subscribers and would bar them from disclosing to anyone that they had received a subpoena.
Such a subpoena could be issued without court review, under provisions that seemed to bar the recipient from discussing it with a lawyer.
Judge Marrero vehemently rejected that provision, saying that it was unique in American law in its "all-inclusive sweep" and had "no place in our open society."