Friday, January 05, 2007

Raging Constitutional Stupidity

Late last year, the President signed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act into law. This law does a number of beneficial things, like providing financing and organization for the postal service for at least the next decade. In addition, the law does two other interesting things. First, it makes the postal service a person in the eyes of a law, subject to law suits when it, or any employee, violates federal law. Second, the very end of the law permits the governors of the states to create classes of mail, and protects those sealed envelopes from unreasonable search and seizure under the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Early this week, the President attached a signing statement to the law that would allow police officials to search sealed mail in the name of exigent circumstances. While there is an exigent circumstances exception to the Constitutional protections against search and seizure, it is not something that requires a signing statement. Notwithstanding the questionable constitutionality of signing statements, the implication in this Presidential act is to indicate a willingness to order illegal searches in instances where the exigency exception may not apply. The White House indicated that this is already part of the law and that it falls within the rubric of the ticking bomb scenario. However, the so-called "War on Terror" targets an enigmatic and elusive enemy. It is more likely that the exigent circumstances exception could arise in situations where the exception would not otherwise apply. The character of the enemy in this war permits the government to invoke the ticking bomb scenario at will, or for an extended period of time. After all, the law provides no exception to the Fourth Amendment that gives the President the power to continue the use of the NSA Domestic Surveillance Program, yet the program continues to violate the rights of American citizens.

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