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Sweet Jesus, What Is That?

 

constitution

It is called the United States Constitution.  It is supposed to mean something.  It is interesting that it took a comedian to refresh the memory of Justice Department attorneys as to some of its provisions and, one wonders, to its existence.

Al Franken Reads 4th Amendment to Justice Department Official

Just in case he wasn’t familiar with it, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) decided to read the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution to David Kris, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, who was testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee today to urge reauthorization of expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Act.

Franken, who opened by acknowledging that unlike most of his colleagues in the Senate, he’s not a lawyer, but according to his research “most Americans aren’t lawyers” either, said he’d also done research on the Patriot Act and in particular, the “roving wiretap” provision that allows the FBI to get a warrant to wiretap a an unnamed target and his or her various and changing cell phones, computers and other communication devices.

And as I have often wondered, what is it about “warrantless” wiretaps that they don’t understand?

Noting that he received a copy of the Constitution when he was sworn in as a senator, he proceeded to read it to Kris, emphasizing this part:  “no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

“That’s pretty explicit language,” noted Franken, asking Kris how the “roving wiretap” provision of the Patriot Act can meet that requirement if it doesn’t require the government to name its target.

At which point the clouds lifted from the eyes of this DOJ attorney?

Kris looked flustered and mumbled that “this is surreal,” apparently referring to having to respond to Franken’s question. “I would defer to the other branch of government,” he said, referring to the courts, prompting Franken to interject: “I know what that is.”

Kris explained that the courts have held that the law’s requirements that the person be described, though not named, is sufficient to meet the demands of the Constitution. That did not appear to completely satisfy Franken’s concerns.

Nor should it have. 

Today’s Judiciary Committee hearing has so far proceeded much the way yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee subcommittee hearing did, with Democrats (except the Justice Department witness) expressing skepticism that the current law adequately protects Americans’ civil liberties and Republicans emphasizing the need to have all possible tools for law enforcement available because another major terrorist attack could occur at any time.

Ah yes, the old “We could be attacked at any time so give away all of your rights” Republican mantra.  And these are the teabagging dittotards that want their country back?  Back to what, King George’s time before that inconvenient document known as our Constitution got in the way of rule by fiat?

Me thinks so.

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