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Federal Court Strikes Down Patriot Act Surveillance Power
09/30/2004
Civil liberties activists won a victory on Wednesday, September 29 when a key part of the USA PATRIOT Act that allows the FBI to secretly demand information from Internet providers was ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. District Judge. Section 505 of the Act requires Internet service providers and any other type of communication provider--including telephone companies--to comply with secret "national security letters" from the FBI. Those letters can ask for information about subscribers--including home addresses, what telephone calls were made, e-mail subject lines and logs of what Web sites were visited. The law was struck down the grounds that it violates free speech rights under the First Amendment as well as the right to be free from unreasonable searches under the Fourth Amendment.�

The ACLU, which filed the lawsuit six months ago on behalf of an unnamed Internet company, says that the Court's decision was an "important victory and significant step in the efforts to dismantle the harmful aspects of the Patriot Act."

The ruling could have a broad impact on government surveillance.

[ ACLU press release | Court Ruling | Related section of the PATRIOT Act | City Council Resolution ]

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