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Federal judge rules Patriot Act search, surveillance provisions unconstitutional

[JURIST] A US district judge ruled [PDF text] Wednesday that two provisions of the USA Patriot Act [JURIST news archive] that deal with physical search and electronic eavesdropping are unconstitutional. Brandon Mayfield [JURIST news archive], the Oregon attorney arrested [JURIST report] and detained for two weeks in May 2004 after the FBI mistakenly concluded that his fingerprints matched [JURIST report] those found on a bag containing detonators used in the 2004 Madrid train bombings [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], challenged the USA Patriot Act provisions which amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and allowed investigators to search his home and office. The judge Wednesday held that the search had violated Mayfield's Fourth Amendment [Fourth Amendment, text] rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

Lawyers for the Justice Department had argued that Mayfield's Patriot Act challenge could not continue after the the US government agreed to pay $2 million in November 2006 in a settlement agreement [PDF text; JURIST report], and that the government's retention of Mayfield's family records would not harm the family. Mayfield originally alleged that the FBI orchestrated his arrest because of his religious beliefs as a Muslim, though a 2006 DOJ Inspector General report [text] refuted those claims [press release]. After an investigation into his arrest and detention, the DOJ Inspector General [official website] cleared FBI agents involved in the incident of any wrongdoing and made several suggestions for improvements to the fingerprint identification process that have since been implemented by the DOJ. The US also formally apologized [PDF text] to Mayfield per the agreement. KGW has more.

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