Judge says Patriot Act allows warrantless phone, email taps

Hassan Abu-Jihaad was a sailor who allegedly leaked a Navy document to a suspected terror group in London. He's currently on trial in federal court in Connecticut for disclosing national-defense information and his trial is slated for Feb.

Hassan Abu-Jihaad was a sailor who allegedly leaked a Navy document to a suspected terror group in London. He's currently on trial in federal court in Connecticut for disclosing national-defense information and his trial is slated for Feb. 25. His lawyers attempted to argue that the evidence should be suppressed because it was obtained by intercepting his phone calls and obtaining emails, pursuant to the USA Patriot Act.

Abu-Jihaad argued that those portions of the Patriot Act are unconstitutional, citing a ruling by an Oregon district court which struck down key provisions.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Kravitz, said he disagreed with that decision, and found that the Act strikes a "reasonable" balance "between an individual's important interest in privacy and the government's legitimate need to obtain foreign intelligence information." Thus the Act complies with the Fourth Amendment, the judge ruled, the Associated Press reported.

Kravitz said the law remains focused on foreign intelligence gathering, but defines a foreign power to include groups engaged in international terrorism. He said the law still has numerous safeguards, including the need for an independent judicial officer to approve surveillance.

As far as that Oregon decision goes, the administration is appealing U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken's decision that the Patriot Act's authorization of secret searches and wiretapping to gather criminal evidence violates the Fourth Amendment.

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