Thursday, January 19, 2006

Alito and McClellan

Wednesday's Daily Show with Jon Stewart highlighted a sound bite from Alleged President Bush's Press Secretary Scott McClellan.

The frivolous lawsuits that you reference [civil liberties groups and others suing Alleged President Bush, claiming that the warrantless surveillance of U.S. persons is not only illegal but unconstitutional] do nothing to help enhance civil liberties or protect the American people.
I know that it's difficult to look beyond the headline sometimes, but read my analysis of Judge Alito's dissent in the case that is referred to by the "strip-search of a 10-year-old girl." To me, the most disturbing aspect of the case was that Judge Alito argued that an unambiguously facially deficient search warrant was completely valid. The primary issue in Doe v. Groody wasn't whether or not the warrant was valid — both parties agreed that it was flawed — but solely whether the police officers involved reasonably believed it to be valid at the time of the search. If Alito had stopped there, at the facts of the case before him, he could have made the winning argument that it was the judge's responsibility more than the police officers to notice the defects in the warrant. Instead, he overreached, arguing, against an impressive array of Supreme Court precedents, that there were no defects in the warrant. Alito went out of his way to be an activist appellate judge.

By the same token, if Scott McClellan had simply said, "We believe that the surveillance program is entirely within the President's authority under the Constitution and the laws of the United States," then it might have been reasonable to suggest that at least the Bush administration believes that it is operating within the law. However, the fact that he so egregiously overreached, stating that any suggestion that the President might have overstepped was "frivolous," serves only to fuel the reasonable belief that the President knowingly violated the Constitution.

Saying that "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated" constrains the President's actions, is not the least bit frivolous. Scott McClellan could offer the Bush administration a life ring by falling on his sword for that gaffe, but one way or another, America cannot have a spokesman for the President of the United States suggest that it is frivolous to defend the Bill of Rights.