Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Reasonableness versus Probable Cause

From a press conference with General Michael Hayden, principal deputy director of National Intelligence with the Office of National Intelligence:

Defending Spy Program, General Reveals Shaky Grip on 4th Amendment

QUESTION: The legal standard is probable cause, General. You used the terms just a few minutes ago, "We reasonably believe." And a FISA court, my understanding is, would not give you a warrant if you went before them and say "we reasonably believe"; you have to go to the FISA court, or the attorney general has to go to the FISA court and say, "we have probable cause."

And so what many people believe -- and I'd like you to respond to this -- is that what you've actually done is crafted a detour around the FISA court by creating a new standard of "reasonably believe" in place of probable cause because the FISA court will not give you a warrant based on reasonable belief, you have to show probable cause. Could you respond to that, please?
GEN. HAYDEN: Sure. I didn't craft the authorization. I am responding to a lawful order. All right? The attorney general has averred to the lawfulness of the order.

Just to be very clear -- and believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. And so what you've raised to me -- and I'm not a lawyer, and don't want to become one -- what you've raised to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is "reasonable." And we believe -- I am convinced that we are lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable.
The 4th Amendment, just so you know:
"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. "
So what you have here is an example of the Bush Administration ignoring case law and parsing the Bill of Rights in order to reach the conclusion they desire. It's often said that you can use quotes taken from the Bible and twist them around to get any meaning that you want. Perhaps this is the same standard the Bush Administration is applying to the Constitution. However, if you take the Bible or the Constitution as a whole document and with it use the considered settled opinion of scholars, then I think the conclusions reached by these officials are clearly the result of bearing false witness.

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