Anyone who wonders why the United States is worth defending should read the judge’s decision in the case of Brandon Mayfield.
Mayfield is the Oregon lawyer who was accused of being a participant in the al Quaeda-connected bombings of commuter trains in Madrid, Spain. The accusation appears to have been based mostly on Mr. Mayfield’s religious affiliation, and not on any evidence. Mayfield was arrested, charged and held in jail, until the charges were dismissed.
Mayfield’s suit points out that the government acted illegally against him, in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which bans searches without a valid warrant. It appears that Mr. Mayfield’s religion was the chief basis for the search warrants obtained.
In what other nation, in a time considered to be a time of war, could such a suit protecting a citizen against his own government be entertained? In what other nation could one judge declare such a major action of its government to be illegal, with any expectation that the government would obey such a ruling?
The case will probably be appealed.
Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars covers the issue well enough to make a lesson plan out of it for government or civics classes.
- New York Times, “Judge Rules Provisions in PATRIOT Act to be Illegal”
- Adam Liptak, “Adding to Security but Multiplying the Fears,” note on the effects of tactics such as those used against Mr. Mayfield
- Washington Post, “Patriot Act Provisions Voided”
- John Dean, at Findlaw, on executive branch abuse of illegally obtained information
- The Fourth Amendment, at Findlaw (with annotations)
- The Bill of Rights, at Cornell’s Legal Information Institute
- Fourth Amendment, “Search and Seizure,” from the Government Printing Office
- Bill of Rights Institute, lesson plan on PATRIOT Act, national security letters and judicial action (see “Bill of Rights in the News,” 9.17.07-Sections of Patriot Act Unconstitutional