A group of free speech associations has filed an amicus brief backing a lawsuit brought this summer by the ACLU challenging the constitutionality of Section 215 of the U.S.A. Patriot Act. The amicus brief was made to support the ACLU's fight to prevent a federal court in Detroit dismissing the case. The ACLU brought the suit on behalf of six nonprofit organizations in the Detroit area that believed they would be likely targets for investigation under Section 215.
Although the free speech groups are not directly involved with the ACLU case, they filed the brief because of their belief that if the case is dismissed because of lack of standing, Section 215 would be insulated from judicial review. "Given the secrecy that pervades the Patriot Act generally, and Section 215 specifically, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to safeguard core First Amendment rights unless this case proceeds to the merits," the brief states.
The amicus brief asserts that Section 215 should be struck down because it gives the government "unchecked and unprecedented power" to obtain materials protected by the First Amendment by only suggesting that the materials are necessary to prevent international terrorism. The act also imposes a gag order barring the recipient from telling anyone about the government's request. Among the groups that signed the amicus brief were the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the AAP, the AAUP and PEN American Center.