Saturday, March 18, 2006

Warrantless wiretaps has a twin - warrantless home invasion



A US News and World Report article hitting the stands this week exposes the Bush Administration uses the same justification for warrantless wiretaps to physically search homes without court approval. Keith Olbermann discussed the matter with Jonathan Turley, GW Law School Professor:




Olbermann: (reading from a U.S. News & World Report press release) "Soon after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, lawyers in the White House and the Justice Department argued that the same legal authority that allowed warrentless electronic surveillance inside the US, could also be used to justify physical searches of terror suspects homes & businesses without court approval."

Olbermann: Doesn't that send chills down your spine?

Turley: Well it does. It's horrific, because what that would constitute is to effectively remove the 4th Amendment from the U.S. Constitution and the fact that it was so quick as a suggestion shows the inclinations, unfortunately, of this administration. It treats the Constitution as some legal technicality instead of the thing were trying to fight to protect. Notably, the U.S. News & World Report story says the FBI officals, or some of them apparently, objected... [W]e're seeing a lot of people in the administration with the courage to say "Hold it, this is not what we're supposed to be about. If we're fighting a war, it's a war of self definition and if we start to take whole amendments out of the Constitution in the name of the war on terror-we have to wonder what's left at the end, except victory."

Olbermann: (reading from the press release) "According to 2 two current and former government officals . . . the Bush administration lawyers presented the arguments to senior FBI officals who expressed strong reservations about their proposal. . . . It could not be determined whether any warrentless physical searches had been carried out under the legal authority cited by the administration, but at least one defense attorney representing a terrorism suspect has alleged that his law office and home may have been searched without a court warrant."

Olbermann: The attorney's office and home not the suspect's office and home. Is there away to overstate this? When you start to talk about the 4th amendment and protections of constitution verses the needs to try to track down terrorists, you can move very quickly into tin-foil hat zone. When you sound totally Paranoid-like they're spying on us through our walls, but is this...is this not the first thing you would see if you did some sort of... prequel to the book 1984, wouldn't this be somewhere in the 1st chapter?

Turley: I'm afraid it would. This is something to be very concerned about. These are not trival matters. We've seen a sort of broad-based assault on basic Constitutional rights in our country since 9/11. We have a President who ordered electronic surveillance by the NSA without warrants in something that constitutes a federal crime. Congress isn't even holding serious hearings on that. So we have a system that has checks & balances but none of them seem to be working. At the same time, as we noted earlier, we have an attack on the Judiciary itself, all of this should present a picture of concern for any American.


Thanks to Kossack Chamonix for the unofficial transcript from Olberman's show. The full article won't be out until this evening. Lots of questions until then, and so few answers.

It's precisely this kind of illegal activity we feared upon learning the government had overreached with regard to wiretaps. And people thought that was a bridge too far. So much for being paranoid about the 4th amendment. It's already gone.

You'd think this would force the Senate's investigation. But given the imbalance of power, no such checks and balances exist. Even the FBI's concerns about illegality of such actions are brushed off and negated.

Who's gonna stop this train?
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