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A controversial provision in the Patriot Act empowering the FBI to demand detailed customer records from communications providers and carriers without a court order has been struck down.

Since the Act was rammed through Congress, the Feds have been permitted to obtain personal information about anyone merely by issuing a so-called 'national security letter.' In true Gestapo style, the recipient of such a letter is forbidden to disclose the fact that a demand for information has been made.

US District Judge Victor Marrero found that these provisions of the Act violate the Fourth Amendment by preventing a challenge to government search and seizure, and the First Amendment because the non-disclosure provision amounts to prior restraint of speech.

The ruling forbids the government to issue national security letters or to enforce the non-disclosure provision, but the judge has not yet enacted the judgment because the government is expected to mount an appeal.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) brought the case against the government on behalf of an ISP, identified in court papers only as "John Doe".

This is the second blow to Ashcroft and Company, since the US Supreme Court ruled in June that terror suspects must be granted access to the courts and permitted to challenge their detention. ®

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