September 26, 2007 | By Kurt Opsahl

Parts of FISA Held Unconstitutional

Today, Judge Ann Aiken of the Oregon Federal District Court ruled that two provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), "50 U.S.C. ?? 1804 and 1823, as amended by the Patriot Act, are unconstitutional because they violate the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution."

This case arose over warrantless surveillance of an innocent Oregon attorney who was falsely suspected of involvement with the Madrid train bombing based on a mistaken fingerprint identification. The critical legal issue was that in the Patriot Act, Congress amended FISA to change the language from requiring "the purpose" of the search or surveillance be to obtain foreign intelligence information to only "a significant purpose" of the search or surveillance. As EFF has previously explained in a case before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, a "long line of court of appeals decisions, before and after FISA, has held that surveillance may be conducted without a traditional warrant and probable cause only when foreign intelligence collection is the "primary purpose" of the surveillance," not merely a "significant purpose."

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