June 26, 2008

A Damning FISA Summation & Supreme Court Follies [1:46 pm]

Why the new wiretapping law is a lot worse than you think

Whatever Hoyer and Pelosi—and even Obama—say, this amounts to a retroactive blessing of the illegal program, and historically it means that the country will probably be deprived of any rigorous assessment of what precisely the administration did between 2001 and 2007. No judge will have an opportunity to call the president’s willful violation of a federal statute a crime, and no landmark ruling by the courts can serve as a warning for future generations about government excesses in dangerous times. What’s more, because the proposal so completely plays into the Bush conception of executive power, it renders meaningless any of its own provisions. After all, if the main lesson of the wiretapping scandal is that we need more surveillance power for the government, what is to stop President Bush—or President Obama or President McCain—from one day choosing to set this new law aside, too? “How will we be judged?” Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., asked in a stirring speech deploring the legislation yesterday. “The technical argument obscures the defining question: the rule of law, or the rule of men?”

Sadly, the Democratic Congress and its presumptive nominee for President has answered — and it’s the same one this Administration has been giving since 9/11.

Of course, now that everyone in DC is going to be packing heat, there may not *be* a government by November. And Dahlia Lithwick passes along the obvious question about the decision:

I am reading the decision in Heller as fast as I can and will post my thoughts as soon as possible. The headline is that the court decided 5-4 (no mushy plurality here) that the D.C. handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement violate the individual right to bear arms as protected under the Second Amendment. But I must first pass along this rather brilliant observation from professor Stephen Wermiel from American University, who wonders why none of the dissenters cautioned the majority that today’s decision “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.” (Boumediene, Scalia, J. dissenting.)

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A Little Blowback [3:52 am]

But, given this Congress, I doubt anything will come of it: Laptop Searches in Airports Draw Fire at Senate Hearing

“If you asked most Americans whether the government has the right to look through their luggage for contraband when they are returning from an overseas trip, they would tell you ‘yes, the government has that right,’ ” Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, said Wednesday at the hearing of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee.

“But,” Mr. Feingold continued, “if you asked them whether the government has a right to open their laptops, read their documents and e-mails, look at their photographs and examine the Web sites they have visited, all without any suspicion of wrongdoing, I think those same Americans would say that the government absolutely has no right to do that.”

In April, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Customs and Border Protection agency could conduct searches without reasonable suspicion.

Covered on Furdlog earlier, but I have class now, so I’ll add the link later (from 2008 April 21 and 2008 Jan 23)

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: Laptop Searches and Other Violations of Privacy Faced by Americans Returning from Overseas Travel

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Tom the Dancing Bug on Boumedeine [2:30 am]

An episode of Judge Scalia’s Constitution Comics from Tom the Dancing Bug. The text of the last panel:

NEXT: In this time of war, should five loony liberal judges retain their “right” to out-vote Judge Scalia?

Alsp, Christopher Dodd’s speech on the FISA amendments, via Glenn Greenwald’s latest post, including updates on Obama’s continued craven support of this tragic legislation.

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