Doesn’t ANYBODY in Washington have a copy of the Constitution?

New York Times (via Atrios)

Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who led the National Security Agency when it began the warrantless wiretaps, vigorously defended the program , though he acknowledged that it depended on a lower standard of evidence than required by courts.
“The trigger is quicker and a bit softer,” said General Hayden, an Air Force officer who is now the principal deputy director of the new national intelligence agency, “but the intrusion into privacy is also limited: only international calls and only those we have a reasonable basis to believe involve Al Qaeda or one of its affiliates.”
The standard laid out by General Hayden – a “reasonable basis to believe” – is lower than “probable cause,” the standard used by the special court created by Congress to handle surveillance involving foreign intelligence.

And gee, I wonder why that “special court created by Congress” chose the “probable cause” standard.
Anyone? Bueller?

Fourth Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

So how could the NSA go with a lower standard than probable cause?

General Hayden defended the program’s constitutionality. He said the lower, “reasonable belief” standard conformed to the wording of the Fourth Amendment, asserting that it does not mention probable cause, but instead forbids “unreasonable” searches and seizures.

Does not mention probable cause? Hello?

Fourth Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Well maybe they just decided that since the fourth amendment mentions probable cause in conjunction with warrants, the best way to get around it is to… not get a warrant.
If it wasn’t clear before, it is now. The administration is actively pursuing a policy that is illegal, un-Constitutional, and un-American, and if allowed to succeed, just think how long it’ll be before authorization to use that power moves outside the war on terror into the war on drugs — if it hasn’t already (since the administration already conflates the two).
It wouldn’t take much. Some drug war violence on the Mexican border. President says that the narco-terrorists are threatening us, and for the safety of the American people, it’s important to use the tools we’re already using in the war on terror and apply it to this situation. And “Don’t worry. Trust us. We’ll only use it on those suspected of being a Mexican or of using drugs…”
And just when you thought you were being paranoid…
“bullet” Via TalkLeft:
Patriot Act Renewal Includes Creation of a Federal Police Force
Section 605:

A permanent police force, to be known as the ‘United States Secret Service Uniformed Division,'” empowered to “make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in their presence” … or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony.

Now most of the language allows this federal police force to protect the President, Presidential candidates and their wives, Ambassadors, Embassies and extends their coverage outside of Washington, DC to anywhere in the United States, but there’s also a nice little vague provision that they can be used for

(11) An event designated under section 3056(e) of title 18 as a special event of national significance.

And what’s a special event in section 3056(e) of title 18?

e)(1) When directed by the President, the United States Secret Service is authorized to participate, under the direction of the Secretary of the Treasury, in the planning, coordination, and implementation of security operations at special events of national significance, as determined by the President.
(2) At the end of each fiscal year, the President through such agency or office as the President may designate, shall report to the Congress–
(A) what events, if any, were designated special events of national significance for security purposes under paragraph (1); and
(B) the criteria and information used in making each designation.

In other words, it’s any event the President says is a special event.
Gee, I wonder if there’s “reason to believe” that some Federal Police will show up at my next party? Should I send them invitations?
“bullet” Update: Here’s the actual exchange from the government transcript (please alert me if the online version changes):

MR. HILL: Final question.
QUESTION: Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder. I’d like to stay on the same issue, and that had to do with the standard by which you use to target your wiretaps. I’m no lawyer, but my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American’s right against unlawful searches and seizures. Do you use —
GEN. HAYDEN: No, actually — the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure.
QUESTION: But the —
GEN. HAYDEN: That’s what it says.
QUESTION: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.
GEN. HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.
QUESTION: But does it not say probable
GEN. HAYDEN: No. The amendment says
QUESTION: The court standard, the legal standard —
GEN. HAYDEN: — unreasonable search and seizure.
QUESTION: The legal standard is probable cause, General. You used the terms just a few minutes ago, “We reasonably believe.” And a FISA court, my understanding is, would not give you a warrant if you went before them and say “we reasonably believe”; you have to go to the FISA court, or the attorney general has to go to the FISA court and say, “we have probable cause.” And so what many people believe — and I’d like you to respond to this — is that what you’ve actually done is crafted a detour around the FISA court by creating a new standard of “reasonably believe” in place in probable cause because the FISA court will not give you a warrant based on reasonable belief, you have to show probable cause. Could you respond to that, please?
GEN. HAYDEN: Sure. I didn’t craft the authorization. I am responding to a lawful order. All right? The attorney general has averred to the lawfulness of the order.
Just to be very clear — and believe me, if there’s any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it’s the Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. And so what you’ve raised to me — and I’m not a lawyer, and don’t want to become one — what you’ve raised to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is “reasonable.” And we believe — I am convinced that we are lawful because what it is we’re doing is reasonable.
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
MR. HILL: I’m sorry.
Thank you very much, General Hayden.
And with that, this proceeding is over. Thank you.
[emphasis added]

I can’t believe it! What idiots are running this country?

[Via mcjoan at Daily Kos]
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