Friday, January 27, 2006

Fourth Amendment

On Monday I was labeling papers and flipping through the channels when I came across a talk on CSPAN by Gen. Michael Hayden, principal deputy director of National Intelligence and former director of the National Security Agency, before the National Press Club. He was discussing the NSA warrantless wiretapping controversy.

He defended the practice and called it perfectly legal. He also said that the NSA has expertise when it comes to the Fouth Amendment. I was interested in hearing an intelligent defense of this practive by an expert in the field, so I was all ears.

But when a reporter questioned him about the Fourth Amendment, I almost fell out of my chair.

The reporter questioned the general about the constitutional requirement that there be "probable cause" for a search. The general interupted him and said the constitution protects against "unreasonable search and seizure." The reporter tried to correct him, but the general was adamant, denying that the Fourth Amendment requires probable cause and insisting that it protects against "unreasonable search and seizure."

When it comes to the Bill of Rights, the general knows slightly less than what we were taught at Bayside Middle School in a sixth grade basic law class.

Here's 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."

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