It’s In The Mail

Oh my, isn’t this charming.

President Bush doesn’t want to crack down just on the sex and psychic calls, listening in for heavy breathing terrorist threats (or Busch Garden visits). No, Mr Bush wants to know what you have delivered and that’s why he wants to look in your mailbox, the physical one.

According to the New York Daily News, as sort of an early Christmas gift to the NSA, he issued a signing statement on December 20th allowing him to break the constitutionally protected right to postal privacy .

President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans’ mail without a judge’s warrant, the Daily News has learned.

The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a “signing statement” that declared his right to open people’s mail under emergency conditions.

That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it.

Dan Froomkin, Washington Post, gives a well deserved hat tip to James Gordon Meek the author of the Daily News piece. Froomkin notes that, although the signing statement was on public record, it had been widely ignored by the mainstream media. (Christmas party hangovers perhaps?) The silence on this issue may change. Froomkin also gives the more important part of the story, links to information about the bill, the signing statement and quotes the important soundbite from the signing statement itself.

“The executive branch shall construe subsection 404(c) of title 39, as enacted by subsection 1010(e) of the Act, which provides for opening of an item of a class of mail otherwise sealed against inspection, in a manner consistent, to the maximum extent permissible, with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances, such as to protect human life and safety against hazardous materials, and the need for physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection.” [my emphasis]

It is the “exigent circumstances” phrase that’s getting people all riled up. “Protect human life,” “Foreign intelligence collection” – sound pretty fishy to me too.

The Daily News article goes on to include the talking points from the NGO terrorist huggers civil liberties watchdog organisation the Center for National Security Studies.

“The [Bush] signing statement claims authority to open domestic mail without a warrant, and that would be new and quite alarming,” said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington.

and

Martin said that Bush is “using the same legal reasoning to justify warrantless opening of domestic mail” as he did with warrantless eavesdropping.

I wonder who else might give us a good quote on this? Perhaps the ACLU? From the story in USA Today,

The American Civil Liberties Union said such “deliberate ambiguity” was troublesome.

It “raises a red flag because of President Bush’s history of asserting broad powers to spy on Americans,” ACLU Director Anthony Romero said.

Others accused Bush of making an end-run around the Constitution and Congress. [That must have been Condi Rice, she loves football analogies. No, um – wait. Maybe not.]

So, next time, think twice about ordering that Britney Speers up-skirt picture clock or the Jihadist orgasma-bomb vibrator, guaranteed to be delivered in plain brown paper packaging. Even if your neighors don’t find out, those people at the NSA will know what you have done.

Of course, if you ordered it online or using the telephone, they probably already knew. But look on the bright side, at least now, they can tell you its in the mail.

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