Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken
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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

More on the defense of William Jefferson 

Jack Cafferty puts it well,

Congresss seems to think it's fine for the NSA to spy on all of us without any kind of warrant whatsoever, but it's not OK for the FBI to conduct a raid on congressman William Jefferson's office - with a warrant - after finding 90 grand in his freezer and after waiting weeks for him to comply with a subpoena to turn over evidence in an ongoing corruption investigation, evidence which he has refused so far to turn over ...

I find it fascinating that the debate is suddenly about whether the FBI can search this guy's office. It's not about the videotape that allegedly shows him taking a $100,000 payoff or his refusal to comply with a subpoena to hand over evidence in an ongoing corruption investigation ...

Prosecutors had already collected overwhelming evidence of Jefferson's criminal behavior; that his possible innocence must be protected is not the issue: it's whether the FBI can get a valid search warrant on congressional offices. An office on the Hill isn't a nether-land where US Code is suspended.

Say Jefferson had been busted for manufacturing and selling meth, a crime much less likely to produce evidence in a congressional office than taking bribes for political favors. There's no difference between searching a congressman's office for supporting evidence of a crime - any crime - be it taking bribes or making speed. Is there?

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Comments:

I thought that the issue was the FBI was under the direction of the president, so we can't set up a situation where the president uses the FBI to intimidate another branch of government. This seems like a valid point, regardless of any hypocrisy regarding the congressional response to spying on citizens. But could the police get a warrant and search the place? The police don't report to the president.
They had a search warrant from a judge. I just don't see why the Hill should be off-limits to law enforcement.
Switching from the term "FBI" to "law enforcement" is disingenuous -- especially since I just tried to make a distinction between the police and the FBI. I think that this is less black & white than you paint it. I would have no issue with police on the Hill, but the FBI is different because they report to the President. Regardless of the circumstances, it ought to be alarming that one branch of government has armed forces raiding the office of another branch.
If the FBI doesn't have investigative jurisdiction over financial crimes that may be occurring on the Hill, what agency has jurisdiction?
I think the major issue here is not even that the FBI searched the office. It's really a matter of procedure. Congressmen fall into a similar catagory as lawyers or therepists. They should have brought in a third party, say, the sgt at arms of the house to look over records they are seizing to make sure they don't take irrelevant records that are privalaged. Even simply bringing in the capital police would have been appropriate.

As for what agency would have been more appropriate to execute the search. I don't think any other agency would have been more appropriate seeing as this is an FBI investigation. They are the agency that who's job is to investigate corruption regardless of their affiliation with the executive branch. The DOJ is the department that investigates the chief executive through independent councils when suspected illigality goes that high. Why shouldn't the FBI, under the DOJ be the ones to investigate the legislature? If they are (which I believe they are) then why wouldn't they be the ones to execute teh search? Also keep in mind that they do not report to the president, they report to the DOJ and Attorney General.

 

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