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The American Civil Liberties Union and six Muslim groups have brought the first constitutional challenge to the sweeping antiterrorism legislation passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, arguing that the law gives federal agents virtually unchecked authority to spy on Americans.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Michigan, seeks to have a major section of the law, the U.S.A. Patriot Act, declared unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates the privacy, due process and free speech rights of Americans, according to the New York Times.

“There are basically no limits to the amount of information the F.B.I. can get now – library book records, medical records, hotel records, charitable contributions,” said Ann Beeson, the civil liberties union’s chief lawyer in the suit.

Justice Department officials said they planned to review the lawsuit and had no immediate comment. The department issued a statement saying the expanded law enforcement powers granted in the part of the act under attack, Section 215, had proved to be essential in fighting terrorists.


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