Category Archives: The Bill Of Rights

The End Of Warrantless Wiretaps

There really is no other way to spin this story except to say that the Bush Administration has given in, there won’t be anymore warrantless wiretaps:

The Justice Department announced today that the National Security Agency’s controversial warrantless surveillance program has been placed under the authority of a secret surveillance court, marking an abrupt change in approach by the Bush administration after more than a year of heated debate.

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said that orders issued on Jan. 10 by an unidentified judge puts the NSA program under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret panel that oversees most intelligence surveillance in the United States.

Gonzales also wrote that the current NSA program will effectively be abandoned after its current authorization expires in favor of the new approach.

The change marks a dramatic turn of events for the Justice Department, which has strenuously argued for more than a year that the NSA spying program was legal and that the foreign intelligence court was poorly suited to oversee the program, as many lawmakers had advocated.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, President Bush authorized the NSA to monitor telephone calls and e-mail between the United States and overseas if one party to the communication was believed to be linked to al-Qaeda or related groups.

The program did not require any court oversight, prompting widespread objections from privacy advocates and many legal experts after the program was first revealed in news reports in December 2005. Bush and his aides strongly defended the legality and efficacy of the NSA spying initiative, which they dubbed the “Terrorist Surveillance Program.”

In his letter to lawmakers, Gonzales said a judge on the surveillance court issued orders “authorizing the government to target for collection international communications into or out of the United States where there is probable cause to believe” that one of the targets is a member of al-Qaeda or an associated group.

Hmm, so the Bush Administration has decided to follow the Fourth Amendment after all. Will wonders never cease.

Of course, as Kip points out, there isn’t any reason that this program couldn’t be continued in secret, but the difference now is that, if (and when) such a secret program were to become public, the spectacle of a n Administration evading the very oversight program it set up would be pretty embarrassing.

For the moment, I’ll chalk this one up as a victory for the Constitution.

George Bush Is Reading Your Mail

Well, not him personally, but he’s secretly authorized the people who work for him to open mail without a warrant:

WASHINGTON – President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans’ mail without a judge’s warrant, the Daily News has learned.The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a “signing statement” that declared his right to open people’s mail under emergency conditions.

That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it.


[I]n his statement Bush said he will “construe” an exception, “which provides for opening of an item of a class of mail otherwise sealed against inspection in a manner consistent … with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances.”

Bush cited as examples the need to “protect human life and safety against hazardous materials and the need for physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection.”

Quite honestly, I am sick of the Bush Administration’s continued gutting of the Bill of Rights, and the Fourth Amendment specifically, in the name of the “War On Terror.” There is, quite simply, no reason for the President to authorize warrantless searches that are not subject to judicial review, especially when Federal Law already provides a mechanism for quickly obtaining search warrants in exigent cases:

Critics point out the administration could quickly get a warrant from a criminal court or a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge to search targeted mail, and the Postal Service could block delivery in the meantime.

Mr. President, the Bill of Rights and the Judicial Branch exist for a reason. Perhaps it’s time to start living up to your oath of office and recognize that.

H/T: QandO

Continuing to Think About Police and Police Culture

There has been a significant amount of blogging activity and discussion around “no knock raids“, police culture, Police Militarization, giving the police the benefit of the doubt, and much more.

First, some credit. Radley Balko, The Agitator, has been blogging on this topic for quite a while. He has the best collection of posts on the problems that I have seen, including a Raid Map. It provides details of botched paramilitary police raids over time that Radley has collected. For those of you that think things are okay, this might be eye opening for you.

It seems evident that there is a problem. Innocent citizens die and cops get off with, at most, a slap on the wrist. People don’t trust cops and instead view them with suspicion and distrust. Cops conduct no knock raids on flimsy evidence, use armored vehicles, where every podunk town has a SWAT team and uses them. Then we have, just to make sure everyone realizes that it isn’t the party that’s in power that’s the problem, the BATF and Waco, where Koresh could have easily been taken into custody without the massacre that ensued and where the BATF used para-military playbooks even though they were counter-productive and created a worse situation. I could go on for pages with these sorts of examples, but Radley has already provided them for us. Why don’t we just stipulate that there is a problem.

Let’s define the problem, then. I won’t bother with the conservative definition of the problem, aside from saying that the idea that agents of authority should be automatically respected, that the Drug War is somehow moral and that police should have significant para-military capability is a set of ideas I cannot get on board with. I will point out that the men that founded our country were suspicious of the government and designed our Constitution (as well as the state governments they helped to create) to put boundaries on our government and its agents. While many will try to separate the government and the voluntary agents, saying that those agents are doing their job and the policy is really the problem, I point you to the War Crimes Trials in Germany and Japan after WWII. We established there, as a point of law and morality, that “following orders” is not a reasonable defense.
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I Can’t Believe I’m Saying This

But, I actually like something that Markos Zuniga Moulitsas a.k.a “Daily Kos” has written:

The Case for the Libertarian Democrat

In this article, Kos attempts to describe why he thinks there is a more natural alliance between those with libertarian principles, and the Democratic party; as well as why the Republican party has been losing so much of it’s traditionally libertarian center…

…and but for two important points, I’m agreeing with what he’s written (which by the way isn’t what I think he truly believes. I’ve read enough of his stuff over the years that I know he’s way more to the left than he’s presenting himself here).

The first principle that I utterly disagree with, is that corporations are the ultimate evil in this world; and that capitalism must be strictly regulated and monitored by government or it will inevitably become a totalitarian evil.

The funny thing about that one is; it’s not too far wrong. Oh it is completely wrong in reality; but the difference between reality, and this socialists paranoid dystopian fantasy future isn’t very large. Mercantilist fascism is a distinct posibility if certain elements get tweakend in certain ways.

The irony of this principle, is that this result is exactly what we KNOW to be true, and will ALWAYS happen with an unfettered government; which brings us to the second issue I have…

The second principle he espouses here that I completely disagree with, is the core philosophy which separates Liberals, Democrats, Libertarians, libertarians, Republicans, and Conservatives alike.

Those on the left and the right (presuming a continuous linear spectrum as presented above) both believe that government can to some degree or another, do good; and be a legitmate and positive force; either for change, or to maintain stasis.

Those who are Libertarians, or libertarians; in general believe that all government is inherently a negative thing, but that some government is less negative than the alternative.

This principle was once the guide of the centrists wings of both the Democratic, and Republican parties; however those wings are severely weakened (in the case of the republicans), or have simply been purged from the party over the past 40 years (the democrats).

This means that there is no longer a functioning constiuency for severely limited government in power today. Both major parties are operating under the principle that with THEIR guidance, government can and WILL do good (or what THEY consider to be good – which is nothing of the sort), no matter the consequences.

One thing that these types never seem to understand, is the law of unintended consequences, and it most important corolary, the corolary of intentions.


No matter what you do, what you know, or what your intentions are; every word you say, every thing you do, will have consequences you did not intend, forsee, or understand. Good intentions matter, but good results matter more.

Oh, and I suppose there’s one other principle that Kos is espousing that I can’t take: The idea that the way to fix the country is by voting democratic; and that if enough libertarians come to the democratic party, things will be alright again (or it’s corrolary, that tactically voting against republicans will force them to become more libertarian as a reaction to their electoral losses).

I reject this concept as utter folly; and dangerous folly at that. If the democratic party is ever allowed into the kind of power position it had in the late 70s again; it will destroy America utterly, and possibly kill us all in the process.

No, I’m not being hyperbolic, I am simply doing that which is prudent: the consequences of following what democrats say are, or have proven to be, their policies; will be the utter subjugation of the west to political correctness, weakness, appeasment, “tolerance”, and “multiculturalism”; and that WILL get us all killed.

The Democratic party, and the left who have chosen the Democrats as their represntatives; are in fact not liberty oriented at all (though some individuals may be). They are controlled by totalitarian transnational “progressivists”.

If these political philosophies are given reign over the country, it will weaken us to the point where we would be unable to resist the muslim and communist assault on our society, and we would all be killed or converted.

This is not to say the Republicans are all that much better; but I do not fear for my immediate safety, or the safety of my children given Republican principles and track record. Yes, taken too far, we COULD become that totalitarian mercantilist fascist state that frothy leftists have paranoid wet dreams about… but I for one would rise in bloody revolution first, as I know would at least hundreds of thousands of my fellow citizens; and we’ve all got plenty of guns.

Of course we wouldn’t if the transnational progressivists had their way, now would we.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

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