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Archive for the ‘Fourth Amendment’ Category

Apparently, the IRS thinks that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to them. That’s just another reason why people hate and fear the IRS. This NYTimes article should give people additional ammunition for fearing the IRS:

For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.

The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes; in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.

Here’s the text of the Fourth Amendment:

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.

Not only did the IRS not get a real search warrant, they’ve never accused Ms. Hinders of wrongdoing. Still, the IRS is feeling magnanimous:

On Thursday, in response to questions from The New York Times, the I.R.S. announced that it would curtail the practice, focusing instead on cases where the money is believed to have been acquired illegally or seizure is deemed justified by “exceptional circumstances.”

Richard Weber, the chief of Criminal Investigation at the I.R.S., said in a written statement, “This policy update will ensure that C.I. continues to focus our limited investigative resources on identifying and investigating violations within our jurisdiction that closely align with C.I.’s mission and key priorities.” He added that making deposits under $10,000 to evade reporting requirements, called structuring, is still a crime whether the money is from legal or illegal sources. The new policy will not apply to past seizures.

This isn’t about updating policies. It’s about the IRS violating Ms. Hinders’ Fourth Amendment rights. The IRS seized Ms. Hinders’ bank account. If that doesn’t fit the definition of an unreasonable seizure, nothing fits that description.

The practice has swept up dairy farmers in Maryland, an Army sergeant in Virginia saving for his children’s college education and Ms. Hinders, 67, who has borrowed money, strained her credit cards and taken out a second mortgage to keep her restaurant going.

Their money was seized under an increasingly controversial area of law known as civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement agents to take property they suspect of being tied to crime even if no criminal charges are filed. Law enforcement agencies get to keep a share of whatever is forfeited.

The IRS has treated citizens, including military personnel, like they were street thugs. That shouldn’t be possible in America. That’s the type of thing that you’d expect in a Third World dictatorship, not from the US government.

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I’ve believed that John Chisholm, the Milwaukee County District Attorney, was a vindictive partisan prosecutor long before George Will wrote this column. Will’s column chief contribution is that it focuses attention on several key points that should receive additional highlighting. Here’s one such point:

The early-morning paramilitary-style raids on citizens’ homes were conducted by law enforcement officers, sometimes wearing bulletproof vests and lugging battering rams, pounding on doors and issuing threats. Spouses were separated as the police seized computers, including those of children still in pajamas. Clothes drawers, including the children’s, were ransacked, cellphones were confiscated and the citizens were told that it would be a crime to tell anyone of the raids.

Some raids were precursors of, others were parts of, the nastiest episode of this unlovely political season, an episode that has occurred in an unlikely place. This attempted criminalization of politics to silence people occupying just one portion of the political spectrum has happened in Wisconsin, which often has conducted robust political arguments with Midwestern civility.

That’s what the threats and intimidation wing of the Democratic Party looks like. John Chisholm is a thug with institutionalized authority to ruin innocent people’s lives. He’s the ‘leader’ of the Wisconsin chapter of the Democratic Party’s threats and intimidation wing.

In collaboration with Wisconsin’s misbegotten Government Accountability Board, which exists to regulate political speech, Chisholm has misinterpreted Wisconsin campaign law in a way that looks willful. He has done so to justify a “John Doe” process that has searched for evidence of “coordination” between Walker’s campaign and conservative issue advocacy groups.

On Oct. 14, much too late in the campaign season to rescue the political-participation rights of conservative groups, a federal judge affirmed what Chisholm surely has known all along: Since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling 38 years ago, the only coordination that is forbidden is between candidates and independent groups that go beyond issue advocacy to “express advocacy”, explicitly advocating the election or defeat of a particular candidate.

Why Wisconsin ever passed these John Doe laws is inexplicable. It’s authority to start a fishing expedition, something that’s contrary to the principles of probable cause and the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Chisholm’s goal might’ve already been achieved:

But Chisholm’s aim, to have a chilling effect on conservative speech, has been achieved by bombarding Walker supporters with raids and subpoenas: Instead of raising money to disseminate their political speech, conservative individuals and groups, harassed and intimidated, have gone into a defensive crouch, raising little money and spending much money on defensive litigation. Liberal groups have not been targeted for their activities that are indistinguishable from those of their conservative counterparts.

I’ve written before about weaponized government. Chisholm’s investigation (I hate using that term in this context) fits that description perfectly. It’s the personification of weaponized government.

It’s worth noting this sentence:

Liberal groups have not been targeted for their activities that are indistinguishable from those of their conservative counterparts.

I’ve seen nasty forms of weaponized government but this is the nastiest form of it. Law enforcement officials participating in this should be investigated, too. Their actions furthered this unconstitutional exercise of abusive government. Hans Spakovsky’s op-ed nails it:

Oral arguments were heard Tuesday before the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in O’Keefe vs. Chisholm, the so-called John Doe investigation in which local prosecutors in Wisconsin tried to criminalize political speech and activity on public issues. The 7th Circuit should uphold the lower court decision halting this Star Chamber investigation that violated basic First Amendment rights.

The fact that such a secret persecution of citizen advocacy organizations even occurred ought to be an embarrassment to a state that prides itself on being a progressive bastion of individual freedom. It is more reminiscent of a banana republic than the world’s foremost democracy.

Chisholm should be disbarred for intentionally violating private citizens’ civil rights. Then he should be tried and, hopefully, be convicted, then incarcerated for many years. He’s a nasty person helping the Democratic Party chill political speech. Saying that his actions are intimidating and that his tactics are the type that would be approved of by Joe McCarthy is understatement.

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Those of us old enough to recall Richard Nixon’s time in office know that he didn’t respect the Constitution, especially the Fourth Amendment. That wasn’t the only way he broke the law but it’s certainly the most famous. That being said, this president is the greatest scofflaw-in-chief in American history because he just doesn’t care about the Constitution or the Supreme Court.

Even liberal constitutional law professors like Jonathan Turley are noticing:

The unanimous decision of the Supreme Court late last month that President Obama violated the separation of powers in appointing officials is the type of decision that usually concentrates the mind of a chief executive. Obama, however, appeared to double down on his strategy — stating in a Rose Garden speech on Tuesday that he intended to expand, not reduce, his use of unilateral actions to circumvent Congress. Summing up his position, the President threw down the gauntlet at Congress: “So sue me.”

This is just the latest proof that this president doesn’t give a damn about the rule of law or the Constitution. Apparently, he thinks he’s America’s king. Institutions like the Supreme Court and the Constitution don’t mean much to him.

Those things don’t mean much to Eric Holder, his Attorney General:

On June 26, in National Labor Relations Board v. Canning, all nine Justices ruled that President Obama’s “recess” appointments to the NLRB violated the Constitution.

Not only did Obama’s own judicial appointees vote against him (including his former solicitor general), but the majority opinion was written by Stephen Breyer, a liberal stalwart of the Court.

The Administration also lost United State v. Wurie, in which the Holder Justice Department claimed that the police and federal authorities did not need a search warrant to seize all of the information stored in the cellphone of someone who had been arrested.

Putting this in more schoolyard terms, the Obama administration and Eric Holder have gotten their butts kicked when facing the Supreme Court. The number of unanimous decisions that’ve gone against President Obama’s administration is the highest in history.

Let’s summarize these cases. In NLRB v. Noel Canning, President Obama, the CEO of the executive branch, argued that he, not the Senate Majority Leader, should determine when the Senate was in session. In US v. Wurie, Holder argued that the Fourth Amendment didn’t apply to cell phones. (That rationale escapes me entirely.) In both cases, the Supreme Court justices voted unanimously that “the constitutional scholar in the Oval Office” and his attorney general were wrong.

In fact, there have been 20 such cases during this administration — and even more if you include cases in which the administration filed an amicus brief, such as in McCullen v. Coakley, the free-speech case that was handed down the same day as the recess appointments case.

The Obama administration filed an amicus brief in that case supporting the Massachusetts law in question and helped argue the case before the Supreme Court.

But all nine justices found the Massachusetts law, which created a 35-foot “buffer” zone around abortion clinics, violated the First Amendment by restricting speech in public areas “that have historically been open to the public for speech activities.”

Here’s Dictionary.com’s definition of scofflaw:

a person who flouts the law, especially one who fails to pay fines owed.
a person who flouts rules, conventions, or accepted practices.

That definition fits President Obama perfectly. The constitutional law professor at George Washington University disagreed with the “constitutional scholar in the Oval Office”:

In our system, there is no license to go it alone. Rather, the Republic’s democratic architecture requires compromise. The process is designed to moderate legislation and create a broader consensus in support of these laws.

Nor is congressional refusal to act on a particular prescription of how to fix the economy or repair immigration laws an excuse. Sometimes the country (and by extension Congress) is divided.

When that happens, less gets done. The Framers understood such times. They lived in such a time.

Moderation isn’t this president’s hallmark. Apparently, ignoring the Constitution this president’s hallmark.

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David Shuster’s monthly op-ed seldom disappoints in terms of questionable thinking from a leftist perspective. This month’s op-ed is titled “Now corporations could have religious rights, too?” Here’s part of Mr. Shuster’s column:

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court gave corporations the individual right of free speech.

Energized by this success and the boundless loathing of the conservative movement for President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, for-profit companies are manipulating the judicial system for the right to practice a religion.

Like the Wizard bestowing a heart to the Tin Man, the court’s decision to hear two cases — Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius — may magically grant corporate America a religious conscience. Unlike the “Wizard of Oz,” this would not have a happy ending.

Independent voters, think about this before voting. In Mr. Shuster’s mind, the Supreme Court “gave” corporations the same right to influence elections as individuals have. It didn’t take long to find out that they didn’t give corporations anything. They clarified the fact that corporations had that right all along. Here’s the text of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

There’s nothing in the First Amendment’s text that says it pertains exclusively to individuals. In fact, there is a reference in the text that protects an institution. Specifically, it says “the press” has the same rights as an individual.

That’s why it’s disheartening to hear Shuster talk about “magically grant[ing] corporate America” religious rights. In the eyes of the Constitution, there isn’t a difference between churches and the Little Sisters of the Poor and corporations run by people of faith. That’s because, like churches, corporations aren’t inanimate buildings. They’re groups of people.

I’ve used this argument repeatedly but it’s still pertinent. Does the Fourth Amendment protect only individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures or does it protect corporations, too? Thoughtful people wouldn’t dispute that corporations have the right to due process. Why should speech and religion pertain only to individuals?

Shuster makes the argument that incorporation creates a wall between a person’s assets and a corporation’s assets. I won’t dispute that. Material things, however, aren’t the same as God-given rights.

It isn’t exactly rare to see leftists misunderstand what the Constitution permits or limits. Still, this LTE shows the Left’s lack of understanding of the Constitution:

The Supreme Court decision called “Citizens United” is a gross misnomer. The court ruled corporations have the same rights as people when it comes to voting rights.

This decision allows corporations to spend millions of dollars to influence elections. This makes it virtually legal to buy elections.

The editorialist is right in that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. the FEC decision said that corporations have the same right of free speech as citizens. That’s because corporations aren’t buildings. They’re a collection of citizens. As such, they have just as much right to expressing their political opinions as your next door neighbor.

The editorialist is wrong, however, in saying that corporations “have the same rights” as it pertains to “voting rights.” Corporations can’t vote. They can buy ad time to talk about the things that matter most to them. That isn’t the same as casting a vote.

Is this leftist going to argue that corporations aren’t protected by the Fourth Amendment just like a private citizen is protected by it? Where in the text of the First Amendment or the Fourth Amendment does it say that only individuals are protected by these constitutional amendments? Here’s the text of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Here’s the text of the Fourth Amendment:

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.

The Fourth Amendment at least mentions “people” being “secure in their persons.” The First Amendment doesn’t mention any limits to “people.” The fact that the text of the Fourth Amendment mentions “people” being “secure in their persons” hasn’t prevented the courts from rightly ruling that corporations and small businesses and nonprofits are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. Apparently, this LTE writer doesn’t grasp the concept that the Bill of Rights applies to everyone, not just individual citizens.

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A federal judge ruled that New York’s Stop, Question and Frisk program is unconstitutional:

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled in the case of four men who say police unfairly targeted them because of their race. There have been about 5 million stops during the past decade, mostly of black and Hispanic men.

Scheindlin appointed an independent monitor to oversee changes to stop-and-frisk.

The New York Police Department deliberately violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of New Yorkers with its contentious stop-and-frisk policy, and an independent monitor is needed to oversee major changes, a federal judge ruled Monday in a stinging rebuke for what the mayor and police commissioner have defended as a life-saving, crime-fighting tool.

Mayor Bloomberg’s disdain for the Bill of Rights is apparent:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is vowing to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that the New York Police Department violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of New Yorkers with its stop-and-frisk policy. Bloomberg said at a news conference Monday that the judge displayed a “disturbing disregard” for the “good intentions” of police officers.

The “good intentions” of New York’s police officers is irrelevant. This is relevant:

During the trial, Judge Scheindlin indicated her thinking when she noted that the majority of stops result in officers finding no wrong doing.

“A lot of people are being frisked or searched on suspicion of having a gun and nobody has a gun,” she said. Only 0.14 percent of stops have led to police finding guns. “So the point is suspicion turns out to be wrong in most cases.”

By every definition imaginable, these constitute unreasonable searches. When one-seventh of 1% of searches find something, that’s a fishing expedition. Mayor Bloomberg’s good intentions notwithstanding, this doesn’t pass constitutional muster. One of the only times when police don’t need a search warrant is when something is in plain sight.

Clearly, that doesn’t apply to these cases.

Bloomberg will appeal the case but he’ll lose that appeal. This isn’t complicated. The Fourth Amendment is quite clear. It protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. By appealing, Bloomberg is essentially arguing that police officers have the right to go on fishing expeditions without a warrant. The Constitution states quite clearly that that’s prohibited.

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Yesterday, George Will was asked about the feud between Sen. Paul and Gov. Christie. Here’s his succinct response:

Here’s the transcript of what Brother Will said:

“Let’s be clear what libertarianism is and what it isn’t: It is not anarchism; it has a role for government,” Mr. Will said.

“What libertarianism says; it comes in many flavors and many degrees of severity, and it basically says before the government, it bridges the freedom of an individual or the freedom of several individuals contracting together, that government ought to have, A) a compelling reason and B) a constitutional warrant for doing so. Now, if Mr. Christie thinks that’s a dangerous thought, a number of people are going to say that Mr. Christie himself may be dangerous.”

Balancing the U.S.’s national security needs and the imperative of protecting people from government run amok is tricky on the best of days. During war, the task becomes nearly impossible. Gov. Christie’s hyperemotional response is understandable, especially considering his proximity to Ground Zero.

That consideration aside, it’s imperative to maintain our national vigilence against administrations from abusing their authority by collecting information it doesn’t have a right to look at without a warrant. It’s imperative that courts uphold the Fourth Amendment. It’s imperative that the intelligence community respect the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. It doesn’t protect from reasonable searches or seizures.

Is Gov. Christie worried about intel agencies overstepping their authority? At this point, it’s impossible to know. That’s alarming considering how frequently this administration has overstepped its authority.

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This past week, lots of pundits from across the political spectrum have warned Republicans not to overreach on the AP story. They’re warning that this is a national security issue. That isn’t exactly accurate. It’s time to unravel the DOJ’s disgusting behavior.

At the heart of the scandal is this statement from Attorney General Holder:

Here’s what Attorney General Holder said that isn’t accurate:

HOLDER: This was a serious leak, a very, very serious leak. I’ve been a prosecutor since 1976 and I have to say that this is among, if it isn’t the most serious leak, it is among the top 2 or 3 leaks I’ve ever seen. It put the American people at risk. And that is not hyperbole. It put the American people at risk and trying to determine who was responsible for that required very agressive action.

First, this wasn’t a leak. Here’s the real story:

Although the Justice Department has not explained why it sought phone records from the AP, Pruitt pointed to a May 7, 2012, story that disclosed details of a successful CIA operation in Yemen to stop an airliner bomb plot around the one-year anniversary of the May 2, 2011, killing of Usama bin Laden.

The AP delayed publication of that story at the request of government officials who said it would jeopardize national security.

“We respected that, we acted responsibly, we held the story,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt said the AP published the story only after officials from two government entities said the threat had passed. He said the administration still asked that the story be held until an official announcement the next day, a request the AP rejected.

This wasn’t a leak. The AP apparently got word that the CIA asset wasn’t in danger. The CIA said they wanted another day to issue a press release on spoiling this terrorist plot. At that point, the AP decided that they didn’t need to hold their story any longer.

It’s believable that the CIA was upset that they didn’t get to issue their press release first. Based on the fact that the DOJ hasn’t disputed the AP’s statements, it’s fair to assume that the AP acted appropriately in terms of taking the national security and intelligence gathering needs of the nation into serious, sober consideration.

That’s the front end of this scandal. The next part is what makes this one of the most disturbing scandals in recent history. Based on what we know from the first part of the scandal, we know that there wasn’t a need for urgency in stopping a leak that might’ve compromised a CIA asset in the Middle East. That means the DOJ wasn’t entitled to grab the records it did without telling the AP about this massive grab of AP phone records. That means the DOJ was obligated to going to court to apply for a search warrant and for the AP to contest the scope of DOJ’s phone records grab.

The federal government’s need to protect intelligence-gathering assets in harms way isn’t disputed. In fact, the AP apparently acted responsibly in this respect.

Now that we’ve determined these basic, undisputed facts, it’s time to question DOJ’s actions. Did the DOJ need to sieze 2 months of the AP’s phone records? Did DOJ need 2 months of phone records of over 100 AP reporters and editors? If it didn’t, why did DOJ sieze these sensitive records, especially without giving the AP the chance to contest the DOJ’s actions?

Unless new facts emerge that support DOJ’s actions, Americans of all political stripes should question DOJ’s ham-handed behavior in this matter.

UPDATE: Follow this link to read more on the DOJ-AP scandal.

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Minutes after President Obama said that it’s too early to tell who detonated the Boston Marathon bombs, David Axelrod suggested that the White House thought it was a white guy because of Tax Day. Barney Frank then used the terrorist attack as an opportunity to say that the terrorist attack was proof we needed to raise taxes. This morning, Salon’s David Sirota wrote this column to say that he hopes the terrorist is a white guy:

As we now move into the official Political Aftermath period of the Boston bombing, the period that will determine the long-term legislative fallout of the atrocity, the dynamics of privilege will undoubtedly influence the nation’s collective reaction to the attacks. That’s because privilege tends to determine: 1) which groups are, and are not, collectively denigrated or targeted for the unlawful actions of individuals; and 2) how big and politically game-changing the overall reaction ends up being.

This has been most obvious in the context of recent mass shootings. In those awful episodes, a religious or ethnic minority group lacking such privilege would likely be collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse) if some of its individuals comprised most of the mass shooters. However, white male privilege means white men are not collectively denigrated/targeted for those shootings, even though most come at the hands of white dudes.

Likewise, in the context of terrorist attacks, such privilege means white non-Islamic terrorists are typically portrayed not as representative of whole groups or ideologies, but as “lone wolf” threats to be dealt with as isolated law enforcement matters. Meanwhile, non-white or developing-world terrorism suspects are often reflexively portrayed as representative of larger conspiracies, ideologies and religions that must be dealt with as systemic threats, the kind potentially requiring everything from law enforcement action to military operations to civil liberties legislation to foreign policy shifts.

Let’s be clear about something important from the outset. The FBI’s investigation should go only where the forensic evidence takes them. If forensic scientists determine that the bombs’ markers suggest that the bombs were patterned after the Iranian-manufactured IEDs that were detonated against US troops in Iraq, then that’s where their investigation should take them.

If the bombs’ components suggest they were the work of a lone wolf domestic terrorist, that’s the direction the investigation should head in.

Next, in the aftermath of 9/11, President Bush made clear that his national security team would welcome US mosques’ help in tracking down terrorists. As the investigation into terrorist networks gathered information, he talked about specific Saudi, Pakistani and Egyptian madrassas as producing terrorists.

In other words, the accusations were based on the information that was gathered during their investigation, not because the Bush administration had it in for Muslims.

By contrast, the FBI hasn’t uncovered a system of white guy training grounds to kill abortionists and others they don’t agree with. For instance, the FBI didn’t find a string of militias started in Tim McVeigh’s honor. That means white guys who’ve committed acts of terror have acted without a network of support, thus fitting the description of acting as lone wolf terrorists.

Sirota then made this reference:

By contrast, even though America has seen a consistent barrage of attacks from domestic non-Islamic terrorists, the privilege and double standards baked into our national security ideologies means those attacks have resulted in no systemic action of the scope marshaled against foreign terrorists. In fact, it has been quite the opposite, according to Darryl Johnson, the senior domestic terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, the conservative movement backlash to merely reporting the rising threat of such domestic terrorism resulted in DHS seriously curtailing its initiatives against that particular threat. (Irony alert: When it comes specifically to fighting white non-Muslim domestic terrorists, the right seems to now support the very doctrine it criticized Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry for articulating, the doctrine that sees fighting terrorism as primarily “an intelligence-gathering, law-enforcement, public-diplomacy effort” and not something more systemic.)

The Crooks and Liars post refers to Jared Loughner, the man who attacked Gabby Giffords in Tuscon. The Loughner attack on Giffords was tragic but it wasn’t the act of a terrorist. It was an attack by a crazed madman who didn’t have control of his faculties. Comparing Loughner’s attack with the Boston Marathon terrorist attack is foolish.

First, there’s no proof that Laughner pre-planned his attack. There’s tons of proof that the Boston Marathon terrorist attack was pre-planned. Loughner bought ammunition for his gun, then went out and shot a bunch of innocent people. The Boston Marathon terrorist or terrorists bought the bombs’ components, put them together, deployed them to specific locations designed to create the most bloodshed and fear possible.

It’s right to say that the Boston Marathon terrorist attack was pre-planned while the Loughner attack, though tragic, didn’t require any planning.

Second, as to the point about then-Candidate Kerry being right, that’s laughable. Reading terrorists their rights isn’t being right. Passing a global test isn’t being right. Pretending that killing the Taliban in Afghanistan was all that was needed to end the war isn’t being right.

When a domestic terrorist is captured, like the Lackawanna Six, the Bush administration used law enforcement. They applied for and got search warrants through the FISA Courts. When the NSA picked up chatter about a terrorist network while they surveiled terrorists in Pakistan or Afghanistan, the Bush administration used the CIA or other special forces to roll up entire networks of terrorists.

In other words, the Bush administration policy towards terrorists was complex and multi-faceted whereas the Kerry plan wasn’t multi-faceted. It relied on reading all terrorists their Miranda rights, then hoping they could find out about the terrorists’ networks by having a conversation with the terrorists.

Treating Jared Loughner and Tim McVeigh differently than foreign terrorists makes sense because the specifics are dramatically different. Loughner didn’t pre-plan his attack. McVeigh pre-planned his attack but he wasn’t assisted by a vast network of like-minded terrorists. Only time will tell whether the Boston Marathon terrorist attack was supported by a network of like-minded terrorists.

Simply put, let’s hope the FBI captures the terrorist or terrorists before they can strike again.

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Thursday night, I was flipping through the channels at about 10:30. Lou Dobbs was discussing gun violence with Bill O’Reilly so I thought I’d take a moment to hear what they’d have to say.

O’Reilly said that background checks were good but that it was necessary for legal gun owners to register guns. Then he said something that frightened me and angered Dobbs. O’Reilly said that there should be a law that gave a 10 year mandatory sentence to people who didn’t register their guns. Here’s O’Reilly’s explanation/’justification’ for his law:

O’REILLY: But if you had the registration and the cops went out and stopped and frisked and grabbed the gun, that’s a 10 year penalty.

Later, he said that this would be done as a preventative measure. There’s just one sticky problem with O’Reilly’s law. It’s unconstitutional. The first time it got challenged in the Supreme Court, it’d be ruled unconstitutional with a near-unanimous vote. The Fourth Amendment prohibits searches of this kind. Here’s the text of the Fourth Amendment:

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.

I’m not a constitutional attorney but I’d argue that requiring probable cause to be proven prohibits ‘preventative searches’.

Imagine police being able to search a person without obtaining a warrant. Without the Fourth Amendment’s protections, law officers would be able to go anywhere and search for anything at any time for any reason. That isn’t American. That’s what Third World dictators do in a police state. It’s what they did in the former Soviet Union or Saddam’s Iraq. It’s what they’re doing in China and North Korea.

I don’t doubt that Mr. O’Reilly’s intentions are sincere. There’s no question in my mind that he genuinely wants to protect children from gun violence. That said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. O’Reilly is a reactionary. He doesn’t think things through. It isn’t likely that he ever will.

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