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Federal judge strikes down a section of the USA Patriot Act as unconstitutional

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A federal judge has ruled that a section of the USA Patriot Act is unconstitutional, the first time any part of the sweeping 2001 anti-terrorism measure championed by the White House has been struck down.
U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins ruled that a measure of the act that bars giving "expert advice or assistance" to groups designated as foreign terrorist organizations is too vague, threatening First and Fifth Amendment rights.
The judge's ruling said the law, as written, does not differentiate between impermissible advice on violence and encouraging the use of peaceful, nonviolent means to achieve goals.
"The USA Patriot Act places no limitation on the type of expert advice and assistance which is prohibited and instead bans the provision of all expert advice and assistance regardless of its nature," the judge said.
The ruling was handed down late Friday and made available Monday.
The case involved groups seeking to provide advice to displaced Kurdish refugees fighting for independence from Turkey. Some of the plaintiffs also sought to help the Tamil Tigers Eelam, a rebel group seeking a separate homeland for the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.