Al Franken Reads Riot Act to DOJ Official

Well, not the Riot Act, but the Fourth Amendment.

Just in case he wasn’t familiar with it, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) decided to read the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution to David Kris, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, who was testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee today to urge reauthorization of expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Act.


The issue is over whether or not the 4th Amendment requirement that a warrant be issued only if it describes the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized obviates the Patriot Act’s “roving wiretaps.”

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0 thoughts on “Al Franken Reads Riot Act to DOJ Official

  1. On the one hand technology changes, and on the other hand many law enforcement officials believe they should be allowed to do whatever they please (RoboCop without the robotic bits). So I can understand a warrant to stop and search someone and their vehicle (no fixed address on warrant) and such a warrant may even extend to unnamed people who may be seen interacting with the person named by the warrant. But I’ve got a huge problem with this “we’ll harass whoever we like whenever we like because we’re, uh, you know, protecting the national interest”. There’s too much of that bullshit already from the TSA alone; at least the TSA are restricted to airports.

  2. It seems reasonable to issue a warrant for any phone belonging to or regularly used by a person of interest, given, of course, that probable cause exists. It also seems reasonable, given probable cause, to issue a warrant against “that guy there whose name we don’t yet know, but whom we’ve seen engaged in suspicious or illegal activity.”

    This is more a question of oversight, which is precisely why courts are involved in issuing warrants in the first place. I’m far more concerned with the parts of the patriot act that do away with that oversight all together.

  3. It may seem reasonable to be able to issue random warrants about unknown suspicious people until you realize that law enforcement are paranoid douchebags, often without well-honed critical thinking skills.

  4. There are good arguments for roving wiretaps. Of course, they are constitutionally borderline, and need to be treated as such. Itzac has it pretty much right… it is a question of the criteria for issuance of the warrants and of the oversight of their execution.

    Treading on thin ice is OK if there is a compelling reason to do so. However, you need to be really careful.

  5. That’s exactly what I was getting at, travc. It goes without saying, the standard for probable cause needs to be considerably higher if you’re going to issue a broader warrant.

  6. If you can find it, read James Otis’s “Argument Against Writs of Assistance” from February 24, 1761. In the Colonies, it was common to give open-ended warrants to petty officials, who used them to intimidate whomever they wished. They could go into anyone’s house, unannounced, and search for whatever they wanted. They could even pass the warrants to their successors. This type of tyranny was one of the egregious offences against liberty that led to the Revolution. That is why there was specific mention in the Declaration of Independence, and insistence in the Constitution, including the 4th Amendment, on respecting the rights of individuals. The Patriot Act should be repealed. We cannot give up Liberty for Security. Remember Niven’s Law: L x S = k. Liberty times Security is a constant. The more you have of one, the less you have of the other. I prefer more Liberty. One other thing: if you love the 4th Amendment and the 1st Amendment, you have to respect the 2nd Amendment. It allows the individual, at his or her own discretion, to have a little extra Security with their Liberty.

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