“Since the adoption of the Bill of Rights in 1791, the government has been prohibited from gathering evidence for use in a prosecution against an American citizen in a courtroom unless the government could prove the existence of probable cause that a crime has been committed,” [U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken of Portland] said.
Under the Patriot Act, she said, federal authorities can sidestep that requirement by asserting that one purpose of the surveillance is to gather foreign intelligence information – an assertion presented in secret to a special court that has little choice but to take the government’s word for it.
Aiken said the law is an unconstitutional evasion of the Fourth Amendment, which forbids searches in criminal cases unless officers first obtain a warrant from a judge, based on information that a crime has been committed and evidence is likely to be found in a specific place. She also noted that federal agents, under the Patriot Act, don’t have to tell the secret court what items or information they are looking for.
“In place of the Fourth Amendment, the people are expected to defer to the executive branch and its representation that it will authorize such surveillance only when appropriate,” Aiken said.
“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.”