By Eric Bangeman
In a ruling (PDF) released earlier today, a federal judge held that two sections of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act amended under the Patriot Act are unconstitutional. Judge Ann Aiken found that sections 1804 and 1823 of the FISA violated the Fourth Amendment's guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures by the federal government.
The case, Brandon Mayfield, et al. v. the United States of America, dates from October 2004, after practicing Muslim Brandon Mayfield was mistakenly linked to the Madrid train bombings of March 2004 by a faulty fingerprint identification. The FBI subsequently began surveillance after it obtained an order from the Foreign Intelligence Security Court (the secret court tasked with a degree of oversight over domestic intelligence-gathering activities)—despite the fact that Mayfield didn't hold a passport and hadn't traveled outside of the US since his discharge from the US Army over a decade ago.
The FBI bugged the Mayfields' residence, executed "sneak and peek" searches of their home, and got its hands on "private and protected information" on the family from third parties. Mayfield was ultimately taken into custody as a material witness in May of 2004. After Spanish authorities linked the fingerprint to an Algerian national, Mayfield was released the following day.