"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Friday, January 06, 2006
As the Bush administration defends its right to eavesdrop on Americans without court permission, a look at Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's record on search and seizure matters reveals how few limits he has imposed on the government's power to gather evidence.
A Knight Ridder analysis of more than 300 written opinions by Alito, for example, reveals that he has almost never found a government search unconstitutional and that he has argued to relax warrant requirements and to broaden the kinds of searches that warrants permit.
There are a few exceptional cases in Alito's record, notably a 1998 ruling in which he rejected the search of a black driver's car for a handgun because police practically admitted that race influenced their decision to stop the man. But overall his record in this area has produced near uniform results in favor of government authority.
His work in this area has frequently drawn sharp disagreement from his colleagues on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, one of whom accused him of approving an "Orwellian" invasion of privacy in one case.
Alito, whose Senate confirmation hearings begin Monday, will likely face pointed questions about his record in this area. Along with his views on the breadth of presidential power, his search and seizure work offers clues as to how he might approach a case challenging the domestic spying program.
In one 2004 case, for example, Alito didn't find fault with an 18-month, round-the-clock surveillance operation that was never approved by a judge.
In case you were wondering - and it's been a while since I brought this up - this government must fall.