Saturday, September 29, 2007

The True Patriot Act (redux)

The Patriot Act took another hit on Wednesday (Sept. 26).

A federal judge agreed with a guy who had been arrested in Portland over the horrendous Madrid train bombings of 2004.

The government used the infamous legislation to root around in this guy’s life, arrest him wrongly, and screw up generally. And the court spanked the government for doing so.

As usual, it’s a little complicated, but let’s face it, you come to highwayscribery for decoding.

Under the Fourth Amendment the government cannot gather evidence for courtroom prosecution unless it has proven to the court there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.

The Patriot Act, naturally, waived the requirement where that crazy “secret court” -- formulated under the Foreign Intelligence Security Act the administration is dying to bypass -- can be convinced the proposed surveillance of an American citizen has something to do with foreign intelligence gathering.

According to an article by Bob Egelko in the “San Francisco Chronicle,” Brandon Mayfield, an Oregon attorney was arrested after the Madrid bombings because the Federal Bureau of Investigation claimed that his fingerprint matched one found at the massacre site. He cooled his heels in the pen for two weeks before the government had to admit (again!) that they’d gotten it wrong, and then ponied up $2 million of your money and the scribe’s to make him whole again.

Obviously not one to fuck around, and certainly worthy of our lionization, Mayfield went ahead and pressed his Fourth Amendment rights. Because he was already free, this effort was on your behalf and the scribe’s.

The government argued they’d already ponied up the aforementioned two bills, but Mayfield wanted the stuff they seized from his home back and sued Uncle Sam anyway.

The highwayscribery board of editors mulled this over and quickly agreed to a position clearly stating that if the government takes your stuff and then they lose the case, you get the stuff back.

The judge in Mayfield’s case, Ann Aiken, agreed: “Since the adoption of the Bill of Rights in 1791, the government has been prohibited from gathering evidence for use in prosecution against an American citizen in a courtroom unless the government could prove the existence of probable cause that a crime has been committed.”

Under The Patriot Act, she continued, “The people are expected to defer to the executive branch and its representation that it will authorize such surveillance only when appropriate.”

The board of directors here also voted on a non-binding proposal that says the people should never defer to the executive branch.

Aiken concluded: “For over 200 years, this nation has adhered to the rule of law - with unparalleled success. A shift to a nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited as well as ill-advised.”

Extra-constitutional. That’s what they are cooking up in Congress under the guise of protecting you (and the highway scribe).

And the courts are saying its stinks. Two weeks ago highwayscribery reported the striking down of the whole business with the FBI’s “national security letters.”

And it was as much a pleasure to scribble about it then as it has been today.

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