Tuesday, May 23, 2006


So what's a mere 219 years of legal history?

When Dennis Hastert becomes Mr. Civil Liberties, you know we're not in Kansas anymore. A Congresswoman is accosted in the hallways of Congress. A Congressman's offices are searched. Two incidents aren't quite a pattern. But add just one more intrusion into Congressional space, and I think we should conclude that there is an attempt to intimidate members of Congress. The fact that both targeted Congressmen are African American Democrats seems like one h--l of a coincidence. Remember: there are plenty of accusations against Congressmen. A lot of them are eventually proven true. But Congressmen have a job to do. In addition to setting the laws, they are our primary defense against an out-of-control executive. (And Coach Hastert is in charge? Oy.) One way in which tyrants can seize power is by making the lawmakers fearful. Check Roman history if you need an example. Here's the pushback: Eggan and Murray, writing from the journalistic remnants of the WaPo An unusual FBI raid of a Democratic congressman's office over the weekend prompted complaints yesterday from leaders in both parties, who said the tactic was unduly aggressive and may have breached the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.... When Dennis Hastert is alarmed by an intrusion into civil liberties, so should we all be. "Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our Republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did Saturday night, crossing this Separation of Powers line, in order to successfully prosecute corruption by Members of Congress," he said. "Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years." Here's the background history for our right-wing readers, who don't seem to know what country thgey live in: Article I, Section 6 of the US Constitution establishes legal privilege for congressmen: Section 6. The Senators and Representatives ...shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place. Furthermore, the Fourth Amendment, which the guy about to be installed as head of the CIA could stand reading defends our right to keep our papers private. Why? Because people who live in fear of being searched cannot do the duties that a free people have to speak against wrong: 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. We have constitutional rights because (1) God-- not King George nor George W. Bush-- gave them to us, and (2) a free people needs to exercise those rights to remain free.
What makes it so startling that Denny's Hastert protested is that it was a Democratic Congressman's office that was searched.

I'd almost think he was worried a Republican's office would be next, like he'd forgotten who's in charge of the FBI or something.
Accepting a $100,000 bribe is considered a felony regardless of political affiliation. And I'm sure that Hastert is more concerned with who will be in charge of the FBI in the near future. Almost all politicians are crooks, its about time one actually gets caught.
funny, charles. you're complaining about two african american democratic congressmen being "targeted" yet it's a good thing that tom delay was caught. if you'd stop being so stupidly anti-right and blindly pro-left, you might wind up with a thought or two. kudos to tommy for doing so.
swq, was Tom DeLay's Congressional office searched by the FBI? Was Duke Cunningham's?
not sure why a congressional office is immune to the law. gimme a break. just admit that it's possible for members of any political party to do something bad.
It just goes to show that our right-wingers are 100% unAmerican.

I have (1) quoted the Republican Speaker of the House expressing concern that the search of Congressman Jefferson's office may have been unconstitutional, and (2) quoted the Constitution to explain why he is concerned.

The American Constitution.

Not the Russian or Peruvian or Martian Constitution.

The American Constitution that every American lawmaker, service member, or judge takes an oath to uphold.

The American Constitution, hallowed by American blood, that right-wingers pretend to support but undermine, attack, weaken, and betray at every opportunity.

Have I said that Comgressman Jefferson's alleged crimes are in any way less than the alleged crimes of Tom DeLay?

I have not.

Have I said that Jefferson should be protected from arrest?

I have not.

In fact, there was a proper way to do the search. The FBI could have gone to the Capitol Police, who are not part of the Executive Branch, and presented them with the warrant. If the Capitol Police had done the search, and especially if they had notified the senior congressional leadership that it was happening, I doubt there would be any complaints.

Speaker Hastert's concern-- and I share it, though I share very little else-- is that Executive Branch should not encroach on the Legislative Branch.

That was how Caesar attained power and destroyed the Roman Republic with its freedoms forever.
The FBI has a history of targeting black people who hold office. McKinney was one of the first people who came to mind when I found out about this.

Charles has the right sections of the constitution to explain why all of the congress and senate should be queasy about this. It looks like they can have the constitution pulled out from under them by the Bush junta and it comes as a bit of a surprise to them.

I'm all for crooked politicians getting arrested but I'm not in favor of the executive branch taking unconstitutional actions against another branch. Won't it be interesting to hear how our "originalists" on the Supreme Court go on these questions. If the poll numbers on Bush run this low they might go with Congress. Those jerks might be fascists but they know which side their bread is buttered on.
If they side with Bush and suspend even more of the constitution we are in for another stollen election.
Lets see. Jefferson was caught on tape taking a $100,000 bribe. There is your probable cause so no problem with the 4th amendment, idiot. Secondly section 6 of article says the person cannot be searched. It does not mention offices.
One more theing. And it also says "...except treason, felony and breach of the peace,..". So taking a $100,000 is no longer a felony nor breach of peace? The section does not say they have to be found guilty, only in cases of felony.
There are some people who merely compliment one when they call one an idiot.

Zaggs is such a person.

So, thank you Zaggs.

Has William Jefferson been actually charged with a felony?

He has not.

The prosecutor has shown us evidence to persuade us that Jefferson is guilty. But if the case were really good, he would have issued the indictment first. In fact, releasing the videotape to the public may have been a criminal act on its own. It certainly was an act contemptuous of our legal system.

At any rate, until the moment that Jefferson is actually charged, section I.6 holds.

The underlying problem is actually Separation of Powers, the reason for which I.6 exists. The historical problem is well known. During the Adams presidency, an out of control president used his powers as chief law enforcement officer to impose what amounted to a tyranny. Congressman Matthew Lyon actually served part of his year in prison purely because he was a political opponent of Adams.

People who know their American history, which I think we can safely say excludes Zaggs, are more concerned about preserving the independence of Congress from a tyrant than about catching a crook.

Next, there's the Fourth Amendment question. Zaggs assumes, incorrectly, that the only files in Jefferson's offices are those having to do with his personal business. In fact, there are very likely files that include: (a) letters from constituents complaining of graft and incompetence by contractors engaged in rebuilding New Orleans, (b) Democratic strategy letters, and (c) the personal files of his staffers, most of whom are doubtless completely unaware of his business dealings-- to list just a few examples of files that should have Fourth Amendment protection.

When the Executive branch which is involved in the corruption in rebuilding New Orleans can search the offices of a Congressman who might be investigating that corruption, there's a danger. The Bush Administration could have arranged to have the Capitol Hill Police do the search, with an FBI witness and witnesses from the Congress present. That would have been the right way to do this.

The fact they chose the wrong way suggests that the goal was to intimidate the Congress.

Now, I don't expect to change the mind of a person who comes to my blog to spew scorn.

But people should know that what is at issue here is not the guilt or innocence of one man.

It is whether we respect our Constitution and our laws, or whether it's simply convenient cover for the opinion we happen to hold today.
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