The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Parts of Patriot Act Overturned

Americans can once again send their emails without worry: a New York judge ruled sections of the recently revised Patriot Act as illegal.

Judge Victor Marrero of the Federal District Court in Manhattan decided that the section of the Patriot Act giving the FBI power to seize telephone and internet records and forbidding the companies from telling their customers conflicted with the First Amendment.

Assistant Professor of Political Science, Maria Rosales feels that the ruling was fair given the nature of the American Constitution.

“The Patriot Act is a huge overstepping of the government boundaries,” said Rosales. “Parts of it are certainly unconstitutional, and I am behind wiretapping when there’s strong probable cause but for the most part I feel like the Patriot Act merely picks on people.”

Like Rosales, junior Seth Congdon feels the Patriot Act follows inaccurate or biased leads.

“I viewed a documentary about the Patriot Act that proved many suspected terrorist threats to be unfounded or misperceived,” said Congdon. “The court ruling is a step in the right direction.”

The ACLU argued that the Patriot Act often underminded the judicial branches power to check. The group also argued that the National Security Letter, the letter from the FBI, that demands customer information from Internet providers without court authorization.

The Patriot Act consists of 10 titles, ranging from Domestic Security against terrorism to miscellaneous. Title 5 has been of interest because its provisions were the reason behind the court case.

Title 5, named “Removing obstacles to investigating terrorism,” gives the FBI power to collect communication records.

The case, originally filed on April 9, 2004, was brought to court by the American Civil Liberties Union, representing an anonymous Internet provider.

Judge Marrero, ruling for the ACLU, said “(Title 5 of the Patriot Act embodies) the significant possibility of a chilling effect on speech and association – particularly of expression that is critical of the government or its policies.”

Sophomore Elissa Hachmeister felt Marrero ruled wisely on the case and shares similar sentiments regarding the effects of the act.

“It’s a more hostile climate for those who write radical or political pieces. The hostility comes from the nature of the Patriot Act,” said Hachmeister.

The Patriot Act, while dangerous for political dissenters, also presents a danger to the American public in general.

“Some Americans aren’t aware of the rules the present administration are passing, and how their rights are threatened” said senior Alice Jacoby, a political science major. “The ruling is good for different reasons, it not only restores rights, but also calls attention to the government’s actions.”

The decision not only calls greater attention to the government’s action, but the perceived illegality of their actions.

“The decision reaffirms that the courts have an important and constitutionally mandated role to play when national security policies infringe on First Amendment rights,” said Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU lawyer who argued the case, to the Associated Press.

Government lawyers argued the need for secrecy while the FBI investigates suspects and that the need for investigation outweighed the right to free speech, and an appeal is expected.

Junior Tess Riester said the Patriot Act and the court ruling both have pros and cons. “The ruling gives rights back to Americans, but at the same time there hasn’t been another attack in America since the Patriot Act’s inception.”

Maria Rosales questions how effective the Patriot Act has been in achieving its goals of protecting against terrorists given that Osama bin Laden is still at large.

Rosales said, “I feel like if they’re wiretapping people who are supposedly talking to Osama bin Laden, that the government should catch bin Laden.”

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