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Old 01-04-2007, 10:22 AM   #1
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Bush Claims Power To Open Mail Without A Warrant

Emergency conditions..what and who will define that? And will it be only that?


NY Daily News Jan 4th

BY JAMES GORDON MEEK
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU

President Bush added a "signing statement" in recently passed postal reform bill that may give him new powers to pry into your mail - without a warrant.


WASHINGTON - President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant, the Daily News has learned.

The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a "signing statement" that declared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions.

That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it.

Bush's move came during the winter congressional recess and a year after his secret domestic electronic eavesdropping program was first revealed. It caught Capitol Hill by surprise.

"Despite the President's statement that he may be able to circumvent a basic privacy protection, the new postal law continues to prohibit the government from snooping into people's mail without a warrant," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the incoming House Government Reform Committee chairman, who co-sponsored the bill.

Experts said the new powers could be easily abused and used to vacuum up large amounts of mail.

"The [Bush] signing statement claims authority to open domestic mail without a warrant, and that would be new and quite alarming," said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington.

"The danger is they're reading Americans' mail," she said.

"You have to be concerned," agreed a career senior U.S. official who reviewed the legal underpinnings of Bush's claim. "It takes Executive Branch authority beyond anything we've ever known."

A top Senate Intelligence Committee aide promised, "It's something we're going to look into."

Most of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act deals with mundane reform measures. But it also explicitly reinforced protections of first-class mail from searches without a court's approval.

Yet in his statement Bush said he will "construe" an exception, "which provides for opening of an item of a class of mail otherwise sealed against inspection in a manner consistent ... with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances."

Bush cited as examples the need to "protect human life and safety against hazardous materials and the need for physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection."

White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore denied Bush was claiming any new authority.

"In certain circumstances - such as with the proverbial 'ticking bomb' - the Constitution does not require warrants for reasonable searches," she said.

Bush, however, cited "exigent circumstances" which could refer to an imminent danger or a longstanding state of emergency.

Critics point out the administration could quickly get a warrant from a criminal court or a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge to search targeted mail, and the Postal Service could block delivery in the meantime.

But the Bush White House appears to be taking no chances on a judge saying no while a terror attack is looming, national security experts agreed.

Martin said that Bush is "using the same legal reasoning to justify warrantless opening of domestic mail" as he did with warrantless eavesdropping.
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Old 01-04-2007, 10:31 AM   #2
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This doesn't surprise me one bit. (those Republicans sure know how to pick them, don't they?)

Hey Bush if you open mine, go ahead and pay my Visa bill won't you?
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Old 01-04-2007, 10:33 AM   #3
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Likewise, he can have all my stupid mailings for loan consolidations.

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Old 01-04-2007, 10:37 AM   #4
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That 'small government' concept is really working out well isn't it?
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Old 01-04-2007, 11:24 AM   #5
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Enjoy reading my Glamour and seeing the ridiculous amount I spend to have cable internet.
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Old 01-04-2007, 11:29 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by DrTeeth
That 'small government' concept is really working out well isn't it?
This is the point that I always seem to stress to my dad and he just can't see it. At all.

The typical conservative notion (at least of the conservatives I've encountered) is: "I'm not a terrorist, so I don't care. I have nothing to hide."
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Old 01-04-2007, 12:53 PM   #7
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by Marty Kaplan, Huffington Post

You've Got Mail. No, THEY'VE Got Mail. No, They've Got YOUR Mail

"The government can now read your first-class mail. No court order required; no pesky warrants needed.

This is the latest power that George W. Bush has arrogated to himself. He didn't win it by jamming it down Congress's throat, or ramming it through the Supreme Court, or amending the Constitution. He did it just by saying so.
No, that's not quite right -- he didn't even say it. He just had it written down, and signed his name beneath it. Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales, and those other guardians of our civil liberties who can be counted on to restrain him when he goes too far, came up with a signing statement just before Christmas that he tacked on to a friggin' Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act.

The Act itself, according to the NY Daily News scoop that broke this coup-by-signing-statement story, "explicitly reinforced protections of first-class mail from searches without a court's approval. Yet in his statement Bush said he will 'construe' an exception, 'which provides for opening of an item of a class of mail otherwise sealed against inspection in a manner consistent ... with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances.'"

To read your first-class mail, all W needs to do is "construe" you. No judges, no criminal courts, no FISA warrants, no due process, nada.

What a reassurance it is to learn from White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore that Bush was claiming no new authority. "In certain circumstances - such as with the proverbial 'ticking bomb' - the Constitution does not require warrants for reasonable searches," she said.

The "'ticking bomb'"! I must have missed the day in 10th grade when we covered the part of the Constitution that talks about that.

The "proverbial 'ticking bomb'"! Never did a phrase more deserve double scare quotes. That's right, it's proverbial, Ms. Lawrimore, like the Loch Ness monster is proverbial. There's no such freakin' thing! It's what happens on 24, or in Tom Clancy novels, or in the nutball imaginations of drunken defectors like Curveball whose rantings provided the WMD rationale that W rode into a war of choice. The CIA doesn't believe in the ticking bomb scenario, the FBI doesn't believe in the ticking bomb scenario, but thanks to the defenders of freedom in the White House who don't know the difference between entertainment and reality, your civil liberties are now yours, and your civil liberties are now liberties, only as long as some chickenhawk neocon lawyer in the West Wing basement thinks you deserve them.

Construe You, Mr. President."
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Old 01-04-2007, 01:01 PM   #8
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A comment someone made on Huff Po

"Not to worry. Just use big words"

Not that this whole thing is funny at all, I think it's sad.
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Old 01-04-2007, 02:51 PM   #9
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They can open my bills too.
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Old 01-04-2007, 03:06 PM   #10
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Well now I know who to blame the next time my netflix movies disappear in the mail!
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Old 01-04-2007, 03:20 PM   #11
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Originally posted by redhotswami
Well now I know who to blame the next time my netflix movies disappear in the mail!
lol.

So long as he sends them back, no worries.
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Old 01-04-2007, 03:23 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by PlaTheGreat
The typical conservative notion (at least of the conservatives I've encountered) is: "I'm not a terrorist, so I don't care. I have nothing to hide."
We're all terrorists until proven Republican campaign donors. Durrr. This new law is great because now instead of having to fax or mail our recpeits from Republican campaign fund raisers, Dick and W wil just intercept them, read them and know that we're all right. I, for one, am glad this law passed. I hated faxing those things year after year.
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Old 01-04-2007, 03:28 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by PlaTheGreat


This is the point that I always seem to stress to my dad and he just can't see it. At all.

The typical conservative notion (at least of the conservatives I've encountered) is: "I'm not a terrorist, so I don't care. I have nothing to hide."
I hear that all the time too from my conservative colleagues. It frightens me how much people are willing to let the government intervene in personal matters.
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Old 01-04-2007, 03:35 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by redhotswami
Well now I know who to blame the next time my netflix movies disappear in the mail!
Aha! That explains where my "Hoodwinked" is. Or would that be too advanced for the President?
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Old 01-04-2007, 03:35 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by redhotswami


I hear that all the time too from my conservative colleagues. It frightens me how much people are willing to let the government intervene in personal matters.
I often think the same myself, that I wouldn't really care b/c I have nothing to hide, BUT this is a dangerous, dangerous, dangerous precedent to set and is clearly unconstitutional. For those reasons, I think it's ridiculous.
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