"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Let's Go Over This Slowly, So Even Scott McClellan Can Understand 

Behold White House spokesmaggot Scott McClellan, exploring new frontiers in sophistry! Asked about the Junta's nasty little voyeurism problem, Scottie abandons his usual "we don't comment on ongoing investigations" refrain and instead offered this steaming pile:
Q Back to the NSA. The White House last night put out paper backing up its claims that this was a terrorist surveillance program, saying the charges of domestic spying -- you defined what "domestic" meant. Isn't one end of that phone call on domestic soil? Why is the charge of it being domestic spying so far off?

MR. McCLELLAN: For the same reasons that a phone call from someone inside the United States to someone outside the United States is not a domestic call. If you look at how that is billed on your phone records, it's billed as an international call, it is charged the international rate. And so that's the best way to sum that up. Because one communication within this surveillance has to be outside of the United States. That means it's an international communication, for the very reason I just said.

So, as you can see, the Constitution provides that the scope of the Fourth Amendment shall be defined by AT&T's billing department. Riiiiight. Next time, use VoIP, and the whole subject becomes moot.

The thing is, the Fourth Amendment does not protect the rights of telephone calls, it protects the rights of people. If those people happen to be located in the United States, they are subject to protection under the Fourth Amendment, regardless of who might be on the other end of the call. Consider this analogy: Suppose my dealer in Lima decides to send me a kilo of uncut Peruvian flake in the mail. Now, that package can be intercepted at the border without the benefit of a warrant (under the exception to the Fourth Amendment carved out for "administrative" searches), but suppose instead that it gets to me safely and soundly, and is now tucked away in my sock drawer. Suppose further that the local constabulary gets wind of my little secret, and wants to paw through my argyles and check things out. They are obliged to get a warrant before they do so, and the fact that my package came through international post - still has the Peruvian stamp on the brown paper wrapper, even - does not relieve them of this obligation. It's a domestic search, and it requires a warrant, issued upon a showing of probable cause. End of story.

McClellan's absurd claim that the government may conduct surveillance of United States citizens or lawful resident aliens whenever they happen to be chatting with someone overseas is simply wrong. It is nothing more than a logical sleight of hand, and not a particularly good one, at that.




Excellent post.

Of course, if your Peruvian cohort happens to be involved with the Sendero Luminoso (the Shining Path) or Tupac Amaru (MRTA), you could be found to have provided material support to international terrorists, and subsequently be subject to an FBI administrative warrant and sneak-and-peek search of your sock drawer.

Oh, wait. The administrative burdens would be too onerous.
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