BY DAN EGGEN OF THE WASHINGTON POST A federal judge today struck down portions of the USA Patriot Act as unconstitutional, ordering the FBI to stop issuing “national security letters” that secretly demand customer information from Internet service providers and other businesses. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in New York ruled that the landmark anti-terrorism law violates the First Amendment and the Constitution’s separation of powers provisions because it effectively prohibits recipients of the FBI letters (NSLs) from revealing their existence and does not provide adequate judicial oversight of the process.
Marrero wrote in his 106-page ruling that Patriot Act provisions related to NSLs are “the legislative equivalent of breaking and entering, with an ominous free pass to the hijacking of constitutional values. “NSLs allow FBI agents in counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations to secretly gather Americans’ phone, bank and Internet records without a court order or a grand jury subpoena. Although the FBI has had such power for many years, the Patriot Act, enacted in October 2001, significantly expanded its ability to issue the letters.
But Marrero wrote that “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–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.”
An internal FBI audit earlier this year found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while using NSLs to collect data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years. Those findings followed an earlier audit by the Justice Department’s inspector general, which found a much smaller number of violations in a narrow sampling. More than 19,000 NSLs were issued in 2005 seeking 47,000 pieces of information, mostly from telecommunications companies, according to the government. MORE
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In order to secure a majority for his NSDAP in the Reichstag, Hitler called for new elections. On the evening of 27 February 1933, a fire was set in the Reichstag building. Hitler was swift to paint an alleged Communist uprising on the wall, and convinced President Hindenburg to sign the Reichstag Fire Decree. This decree, which would remain in force until 1945, repealed important political and human rights of the Weimar constitution. Hitler succeeded in convincing a required two-thirds of a rigged Parliament to pass the Enabling act of 1933 which gave his government full legislative power. Only the Social Democrats voted against the Act. The Enabling Act formed the basis for the Dictatorship, dissolution of the Lender; the trade unions and all political parties other than the National Socialist (Nazi) Party were suppressed. A centralised totalitarian state was established, no longer based on the liberal Weimar constitution.[via WIKIPEDIA]