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What about the Fourth Amendment?
In all this falderal over the generals and their ladies, there’s been precious little said about the FBI and its conduct.
Namely, the broad-roaming investigation into public and private information by a federal agency with neither a warrant nor any evidence of a crime.
The private e-mails of the commander of our forces in Afghanistan and the private e-mails of the head of the CIA were surveilled by FBI agents who were neither acting under authority of a warrant nor investigating a specific crime.
In a nation that protested in the streets over the Patriot Act and its authorization for the interception of terrorists e-mails, it seems odd that there is not a word of upset about the government’s interception of the e-mails of four seemingly law-abiding citizens.
Put another way, if they can read the generals’ e-mail, they can read yours.
Also troubling is that there could be an active penetration of the most personal of e-mails by two senior government officials and the government agencies whose responsibility it was to protect those senior government officials knew nothing about it.
How must it feel in the Pentagon to know that the FBI was playing peeping Tom on one of your most senior generals and you knew nothing about it. Even worse, America’s top spymaster was being spied on and his agency was completely clueless.
That isn’t good.
It raises questions about our ability to detect intrusion and pilfering of our communications. It also raises questions about the ability of common citizens to know when their privacy has been violated by the government. If the head of the CIA doesn’t know when the FBI is reading his e-mail, how would you ever know if the FBI was reading your e-mail?
But back at the Fourth Amendment.
That says that the people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. That means the government can’t get into your stuff without good reason. It’s called probable cause, and the same amendment says that the government can’t get a warrant to get into your stuff without probable cause.
The amendment then says things about the legitimacy of a warrant.
But none of that means anything when the government – the FBI in this case – doesn’t even bother to get a warrant.
Tens of thousands of personal e-mail documents belonging to at least four citizens were troweled through by government agents in a country where the Constitution says such things cannot happen. It was a warrantless search. It was a fishing expedition.
It was a hit.
Two men were taken down, two women were humiliated, and it was all done on the order of a Soviet Union secret police investigation.
This is not to defend the actions of the generals or the ladies, but to point out that more important than who’s writing love notes to whom is the issue of constitutional rights and the conduct of secret government agencies.
The FBI concluded very early in this matter – when the initial complaint was made of harassing e-mails – that no crime had been committed. Yet, it spent time and resources plunging further into a directionless, free-roaming investigation of materials which every reasonable American would consider to be private.
Let’s say you wrote a private e-mail to someone. Let’s say you obeyed the law perfectly. Would you feel the government was justified in having FBI agents read your private e-mail and make its contents known publicly?
Wouldn’t that be an illegal intrusion?
Don’t they have to suspect you of a crime before they can investigate you? Don’t they have to get a warrant before they can read your personal writings?
Is the Fourth Amendment no longer valid?
And is there no concern about the fact that this unconstitutional conduct was used to bring down the head of a rival agency, to unseat a commanding general and to destroy the careers of men who had each given almost 40 years of service to the armed forces of our country?
And does no one connect the dots of command on this undertaking? Are we to believe that the director of the FBI and his boss, the attorney general, and his boss, the president, were completely ignorant of this intrusion into the private lives these two generals? Would the attorney general really have kept from the president the belief that the director of central intelligence was compromised?
Are palace secrets like that not shared with senior commanders? What was the role of the attorney general in this? What was the role of the president of this?
And what was the role of the Constitution in all this? The director, the attorney general and the president were all sworn to uphold it.
And none of them did.
And the palace intrigue played out on the evening news.
Which should concern every American.
Because if the Constitution doesn’t defend the generals and the ladies, it doesn’t defend you and me.