Judge: Patriot Act provisions unconstitutional

Both houses of Congress have now voted to extend the most onerous measures of the PATRIOT Act, which is due to expire in December. (IHT, Aug. 1) But these measures still may not survive judicial review. From Immigration News Briefs, Aug. 6:

Patriot Act Statutes Deemed “Vague”
In a July 28 decision, US District Judge Audrey Collins in Los Angeles ruled that several Patriot Act provisions on material support for terrorist organizations remain unconstitutional. Collins said Congress had failed to remedy all the problems she defined in a Jan. 23, 2004 ruling striking down the statute. “Even as amended, the statute fails to identify the prohibited conduct in a manner that persons of ordinary intelligence can reasonably understand,” Collins ruled.

Collins found that a congressional amendment to the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) sufficently clarified a ban on providing “personnel” to designated terrorist groups, but that “the terms ‘training,’ ‘expert advice or assistance’ in the form of ‘specialized knowledge’ and ‘service’ are impermissibly vague under the Fifth Amendment.” The judge issued an injunction against enforcement of the vague provisions; her ruling applies only to the named plaintiffs and does not affect other Patriot Act provisions barring donations of money, weapons, housing, expert technical or scientific knowledge, communications equipment or transportation to terrorist groups.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) brought the suit on behalf of the Humanitarian Law Project, which supports the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and several groups supporting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka. The State Department has designated the PKK and the Tamil Tigers as foreign terrorist organizations. “I’m pleased that the court has recognized that people have a right to support lawful, nonviolent activities of groups the secretary of state has put on a blacklist,” said attorney David Cole, who argued the case for CCR. Cole said he was sure both sides would appeal.

On Dec. 3, 2003, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a 2001 ruling in which Collins struck down the material support provisions of the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) in a case brought by the same plaintiffs. (AP, July 29, 30, LAT, July 30)

See WW4 REPORT #96

Every once in a while there is a glimmer of hope.

See our last post on the new Patriot Act, and the White House push to pass it.