Mayfield argued that secret searches of his house and office under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act violated the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure. Judge Aiken agreed, stating: "For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law _ with unparalleled success. A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised... asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. This court declines to do so."
Elden Rosenthal, represented Mayfield. Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr indicated that the agency was reviewing the decision. The ruling will likely have little affect on law enforcement as the decision will likely be appealed. "But it's an important first step," according to Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU. "This is as clear a violation of the Fourth Amendment as you'll ever find," Jaffer exclaimed after the victory.
The Bush administration has had poor success in defending the Patriot Act in recent times.
In New York this month, the ACLU scored a victory in a challenge to the Patriot Act on behalf of an Internet service provider that was issued a "national security letter" demanding customer phone and computer records. The judge held that the FBI must justify to the court the need for secrecy for more than a brief and reasonable period of time.
The Mayfield case has been embarrassing for the administration. Congress passed the Patriot Act shortly after 911 to help counter terrorist activities. It allowed federal officers the authority to search telephone and e-mail communications. It also expanded the Treasury Department's regulation of financial transactions involving foreign nationals. The law was subsequently renewed in 2005. Many Democrats want to restrict the Act's language because the act gives the government too broad of powers.