Saturday, August 19, 2006

BTW, The US Has a Constitution

I'm very late posting this but it's worthwhile nevertheless. A judge in Michigan ruled the Bush administration's warrentless wiretapping unconstitutional. A true sign that our politics have gone completely off the rails is the fact that such a ruling, reiterating the basic 4th Amendment standard that wiretaps in the United States require a warrant, is actually considered "controversial".

WASHINGTON -- A federal district judge yesterday ruled that President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program is illegal and ordered the National Security Agency to shut it down, issuing a sweeping rebuke of the once-secret domestic-surveillance effort the White House authorized following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.


The administration has acknowledged that the program violates a 1978 law that requires the government to obtain warrants to wiretap Americans, but has argued that the president has the wartime authority to override the law.

In a 43-page opinion, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the Eastern District of Michigan rejected that argument. She said Bush violated federal statutes and constitutional protections for privacy and free speech when he authorized the military to wiretap Americans' international calls and e-mails without court oversight, overstepping the limits of his executive power.

"It was never the intent of the Framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights," Taylor wrote, later adding, "There are no hereditary kings in America."


It should be noted that since this ruling was handed down, conservative commentators have attempted to make an issue of the judge's use of language in the ruling along with some thinly veiled attacks on her intellect. Glenn Greenwald described this line attack in a recent blog post:

But at long last, the Post Editorial Board has finally found something to be outraged about -- the fact that the judicial opinion issued by Judge Anna Diggs Taylor yesterday isn't scholarly and "complex" enough for the intellectual tastes of Fred Hiatt. What really matters, says the Post in its unbelievably petty editorial, is not the profound constitutional crisis we face by virtue of a President who believes he has the power to act outside of the law and has been exercising that power aggressively and enthusiastically in numerous ways over five years. No, that is merely a fascinating intellectual puzzle, something for super-smart experts to resolve with great civility and high-minded, complex discussions as they ponder what the Post calls the "complicated, difficult issues" raised by the administration's lawlessness.

Indeed. I would add to that this simple rejoinder as well. The ruling was written without complexity because the question at issue is without complexity. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution reads, in its entirety, as follows:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and 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."

What part of that is complex? If the above is the supreme law of the land there isn't much left for the good judge to write about.