Saturday, January 06, 2007

Daily News, Daily Blues

By now, you have heard of the President’s signing statement attached to the new postal reform act. Here’s how The New York Daily News reported it, under the headline W Pushes the Envelope on U.S. Spying:
President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans’ mail without a judge's warrant, the Daily News has learned.
The article, which bore the sub-headline, New postal law lets Bush peek through your mail reports that “experts said the new powers could be easily abused and used to vacuum up large amounts of mail.”

Let’s review what has happened.

The Constitution of the United States prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and sets forth the requirements of a warrant, viz., an affidavit stating probable cause to support said search.
[T]he most basic constitutional rule in this area is that “searches conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment - subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions.” The exceptions are “jealously and carefully drawn,” and there must be “a showing by those who seek exemption . . . that the exigencies of the situation made that course imperative.” “[T]he burden is on those seeking the exemption to show the need for it.”
Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 454-55, 91 S. Ct. 2022, 2032 (1971) [footnotes and citations, omitted].

One of the few jealously and carefully drawn, well-delineated exceptions is the so-called “exigent circumstances exception.” For instance, if a police officer walking down the street hears the moaning and crying of an injured person behind a closed door, he or she may enter to render aid without getting a warrant.

President Bush’s signing statement appears to be a simple re-statement of that proposition. Additionally, there is statutory authority under the FISA law to open mail in exigent circumstances, and then get a warrant retroactively. Again, nothing new here. (Well, I say, nothing new, but that’s not counting the fact that Big Mitch is defending King George the Incompetent.)

And yet, a big question remains. Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington, put it this way: “The administration is playing games about warrants. If they are not claiming new powers, then why did they need to issue a signing statement?”

It’s a question that deserves an answer. One possibility is that King George is trying to bait the Congress and the left-wing blogosphere into a debate, when, strange though it may seem, the law is on his side.

You might think that it's working if you were to listen to the bleating of folks like Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Kate Martin (“The [Bush] signing statement claims authority to open domestic mail without a warrant, and that would be new and quite alarming.”) The entire tone and the accuracy of the Daily News article were reminiscent of another Daily News headline: “Ford to NY: Drop Dead!”

But King George can't pull off this dopey rope-a-dope. Dubya’s approval rating is in the 20’s, and his credibility is less than that of a Ouija board in the hands of a palsied moron.

The buzz on the invasion of postal privacy is just background noise -- amplification, if you will -- to the real news: Democrats control congress and they are going to investigate abuses of the FISA act, Presidential signing statements, and a whole lot more.

King George is wrong if he thinks a single instance of being right can drown all that out.

“... and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

P.S. While writing this, I did have an occassion to look at the lyrics of the Tom Paxton song whose title I borrowed. Read them yourself by clicking on the title of this article. Big Mitch


Anonymous said...

Mitch, you're a genius. But let me point out comments by the bill's GOP sponsor, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who said to NBC:

"I was really surprised. There was absolutely nothing in the Postal Reform Bill that in any way diminished or changed the privacy protection for domestic sealed mail."

And Collins said this in a statement the day the Daily News broke the story:

"It is my hope that the administration will clarify its intent with this recent statement."

Cheers, James Gordon Meek

BigMitch said...

"The U.S. Postal Service is viewed by the American public as the most trusted organization for privacy among all 70 federal departments, agencies, bureaus and other entities examined in the 2006 privacy trust survey conducted by Ponemon Institute."

From the U.S. Postal Service website.