The Justice Departmentâ€™s inspector general has prepared a scathing report criticizing how the F.B.I. uses a form of administrative subpoena to obtain thousands of telephone, business and financial records without prior judicial approval.
The report, expected to be issued on Friday, says that the bureau lacks sufficient controls to make sure the subpoenas, which do not require a judgeâ€™s prior approval, are properly issued and that it does not follow even some of the rules it does have.
Under the USA Patriot Act, the bureau each year has issued more than 20,000 of the national security letters, as the demands for information are known. The report is said to conclude that the program lacks effective management, monitoring and reporting procedures, officials who have been briefed on its contents said.
Details of the report emerged on Thursday as Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and other officials struggled to tamp down a Congressional uproar over another issue, the ousters of eight United States attorneys.
For the best analysis of what the FBI has been doing, you must read Glenn Greenwald.
Several Republicans have expressed disapproval of Gonzales and his, um, cavalier reading of the Constitution in recent days, Johnston and Lipton write. But other Republicans have separate constitutional issues.
For example, Congressman John Shadegg has introduced an Enumerated Powers Act. As I understand it, this act would require that every bill passed by Congress cite the specific part of the Constitution that gives Congress authority to do the thing it wants to do in the bill.
Which leads me to a vital question — what part of the Constitution gives Congress the authority to require that every bill passed by Congress cite the specific part of the Constitution that gives Congress authority to do the thing it wants to do in the bill? Hmmm?
If Congress took this seriously and made it retroactive it would mean the end of the Center for Disease Control (nothing about controlling disease in the Constitution), not to mention paper money. Although I’m all in favor of the government sticking to enumerated powers (especially war powers), if they were to start getting anally literal about it, the federal government would be rendered effectively inoperative. We’d have an 18th-century government in the 21st century. And the terrorists will have won. Or something. I suggest Shadegg’s bill amounts to a can of worms. On the other hand, if the President were to have to play by the same rules … let me think about that …
Meanwhile, although the Right Blogosphere has had little to say about the FBI’s unconstitutional abuse of power, they’re gleeful about an appeals court decision that struck down a District of Columbia gun control law. Eugene Volokh seems to think this decision, which upholds an individual rather than a collective right to keep and bear arms, will impact the 2008 elections somehow.
I doubt it. The Democrats have pretty much conceded gun control, especially as it pertains to an individual’s right to keep a firearm in his house, which is (I believe) what the DC law was about. The only gun control laws anyone seems to care about — and even then, not much — are the sort of laws that might prevent a schizophrenic Islamofascist with a felony record from buying a truckload of assault weapons at a gun show without having to submit to a background check. And even that seems like small potatoes compared to what the FBI is doing.